Several of the six bishops who will become cardinals at the November consistory have spoken about the special promises and problems of the Catholic Church in their parts of the globe, pledging to use their new prominence to help evangelize.
Pope Benedict XVI announced their appointments at Wednesday’s general audience, which took place as the Synod of Bishops for the New Evangelization nears its Oct. 28 conclusion.
Following the news of the six new cardinals, Vatican Radio interviewed several of them on what the honor means for them and what they hope to do in their local Church.
Cardinal-designate and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai of Lebanon stressed the importance of freedom of conscience and “the separation of religion and state” in the Middle East.
“Because freedom of conscience is not recognized, there are many secret conversions to Christianity in Lebanon and in Arab countries,” he told Vatican Radio Oct. 24 in Vatican City, adding that Muslims oppose conversion to Christianity but aid the conversion of Christians to Islam.
He said he wanted to fulfill the intentions of Pope Benedict “for a greater love for Christ and for the Church and for a more effective apostolate in Lebanon and the Middle East.”
Patriarch Rai said that the pending papal delegation to war-torn Syria will bring hope to all those suffering, especially Christians. He also praised the papal visit to Lebanon, saying it brought the country onto the world stage as “a country of peace and coexistence among cultures and religions.”
Patriarch Rai said that the New Evangelization will be carried out in the Middle East with “new fervor” through educational, charitable and social institutions and through engagement with intellectuals and public leaders.
The Philippines’ Cardinal-designate Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila said that the Catholic Church in Asia should contribute in the public square in a “very particular way” that favors humility.
“You may be saying the right things but people will not listen if the manner by which you communicate reminds them of a triumphalistic, know-it-all institution,” he said.
The sufferings of people and their difficult questions are an invitation to be “first in solidarity with them” and “not to pretend we have all the solutions.”
“They can resonate and see the concrete face of God in a Church that can be silent with them, as confused as they are ... it becomes a home for them,” he said.
Nigeria’s Cardinal-Designate John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, whose background is in inter-religious dialogue, noted that his country’s Catholics have long promoted “peace building” with Muslims.
In his experience, the “vast majority” of Nigerians want to live in peace. They face the same problems and difficulties and have “a common ground in terms of spiritual values and even moral principles.”
“So it should not be difficult for us to work together to tackle the problems of our nation,” he remarked.
Cardinal-designate Basilios Cleemis, head of the 500,000-member Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, said his Church’s main focus is to “build communion with East and West.”
“Where you are planted, there you bloom,” he said. “Our motto is to take other cultures and religions very seriously and be rooted there and work for the Gospel in that place. You are Catholic, you are One, you are Holy and you are Apostolic, but with a definite, different and distinct character.”
Christians have been in India since the Apostle Thomas evangelized there in the first century. The Syro-Malankara Church is based in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala state in southern India.
The other new cardinals-designate are Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia and Prefect of the Papal Household Archbishop James M. Harvey.
The consistory raising the bishops to the cardinalate will be held Nov. 24.