18/04/05 Mass for the Election of the New Pope

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Homily Notes of

Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland


Pro Cathedral, Dublin, 18th April 2005

A little over an hour ago, with the words “extra omnes” the doors of the Sistine Chapel were solemnly closed and the formal process for the election of the new Pope to succeed Pope John Paul II began.

The Pope will be elected through the vote of the Cardinals.  But that process is not an isolated one.  The entire Church is linked to it through the united prayer of all believers around the world in these days.   We pray that the Cardinals will be guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and that they will soon provide for the Church a new Universal Pastor, a further worthy successor to the Apostle Peter

We pray here this evening for the Cardinals.  We pray in a special way for the one who will in these days realise that the Holy Spirit is reaching out in his direction, asking that he assume the grave responsibilities of the office of successor of Peter.  May the Lord let him know that he can count on the support of our prayers, as, day after day, until the last day of his life, we will remember him by name in the great Eucharistic Prayer of the Church.

Peter was called to “strengthen his brethren” (Lk. 2:32).  The task of a new Pope in our day will be to be the centre of unity within the family of the Church, spread out as it is in different nations and different cultures, in different theological and liturgical traditions. The new Pope will be called to strengthen his brethren, the bishops and successors of the apostles, in their mission to preach the word and to make the love of Jesus present in this complex and many-sided world in which we live.

In order to be able to strengthen his brothers in the faith, the new Pope must first of all be himself a rock, a man of deep faith who can draw out of his own faith – and out of the lived faith of the Church – the strength to safeguard the deposit of faith and to make that faith something which is willingly embraced by the men and women of our time, especially young people.   Despite all his human limitations, the new Pope will also enjoy that special protection that the Lord promised to Peter, that his “faith may not fail” (cf. LK 21:32).

The Pope is called to strengthen the faith of his brethren.  This means at the same time that the bishops in their local Churches, indeed the local Churches in their entirety, must embrace the same path of a deepening of faith.   Renewal is the constant path of the Church, renewal in the commitment of the entire community of believers to the message of Jesus Christ.

The successor of Peter must strengthen and sustain, not substitute the local Churches.  I do not mean this in some sort of Church-political context. But I refer to the fact that each local Church, especially those where people have drifted way from faith or practice, must itself take up its responsibility for faith renewal. This means, for example, that we here in Ireland must engage more and more young people in questions of belief and help them appreciate just how Jesus Christ is the answer to the emptiness and purposelessness that many experience in their lives, whether these lives are successful or otherwise in material terms.

There has been a remarkable interest by young people in the life, mission and in the death of Pope John Paul II.  But it would be foolish to underestimate what the challenge of growing secularisation means.  Many young people do not feel any emptiness. They may be interested in the message of Jesus, but they feel that the Church is not the place where they will find the essence and the practice of that message.  They are happy with what a secular vision provides for them; they feel that it gives them sufficient sense of purpose, a desire to be caring, honest and good.

The challenge of strengthening faith in today’s world is the challenge of addressing those who find belief not just not easy but irrelevant.  This challenge requires dialogue rather than imposition; it must seek to identify the seeds of the transcendent in today’s society, building on every expression of openness to something which goes beyond the measurable.  It must engage with different longings for spirituality and forge an encounter between such longings for the spiritual and for a God with the fact that God has spoken to us in Jesus Christ, that he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ and in that revelation he has changed our lives and changed our understanding of God.

The Jesus who is the revelation of the God of Power and Might was born in the humblest of conditions.  The Jesus who revealed the God of Life died the death of a criminal. Jesus reveals a God who turns worldly values head over heels.  Faith requires that a generation which prizes human self-sufficiency becomes capable of experiencing God as saving power.  We can only lead a generation who feels no need to be saved to turn to a God who saves, if we can show that God’s redeeming power does not dispossess us of our humanity but enables us to see where true values lie, to understand the mystery of our human identity.

When we pray for the new Pope, we must also pray for renewal in the Church.  We pray for renewal in our own Christian lives, we pray for renewal in the life of faith and in our desire to share that faith with others.  We pray that the new Pope will be sustained by communities with a strong belief in Jesus Christ.

We pray in particular that the new Pope will have that special love of Jesus which was required of Peter (Jn, 21: 15-19) before he received his mandate to nourish the flock of Jesus.  May the Lord give the new Pope the strength to witness to that love in the face of all hostility and indifference.  May the Lord give him the strength to preach the faith, in season and out, until that death with which he will be called to glorify God.   May the new Pope be a rock of strength for all of us in our faith.  May he strengthen us in our desire to live the message of Jesus to the full, as we seek to love God and our neighbour after the example of Jesus Christ.