Pope Francis urges Catholics to 'accept the marginalized'

At a mass for the newest members of the College of Cardinals on Sunday, Pope Francis laid out a 'mission statement' for Catholics worldwide. 

Andrew Medichini/AP
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass for newly-elected cardinals, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015. Pope Francis welcomed 20 new cardinals Saturday into the elite club of churchmen who will elect his successor and immediately delivered a tough-love message to them, telling them to put aside their pride, jealousy and self-interests and instead exercise perfect charity.

In a homily delivered Sunday morning at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City during a mass for newly appointed cardinals, Pope Francis called for Catholics to be open and welcoming under all circumstances.

Repeatedly, Francis denounced what he described as narrow-minded believers who cling to religious laws out of fear. He also warned against the hierarchical tendencies that create a “closed caste” and prevented Catholics from reaching out to those whom society and the church had rejected.

The Pope based his message around a story about Jesus healing a leper rather than rejecting him.

“Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences,” Francis said in the sermon. “For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family. And this is scandalous to some people.”

During the past week, more than 150 members of the College of Cardinals, including the new cardinals, met for talks on reforming the Roman Curia, the administrative branch of the Holy See, which Pope Francis sees as too bureaucratic. These talks have reported been hindered by disagreements.

Elected two years ago, Pope Francis, has sought to change the church’s image, with greater emphasis on acceptance and charity, and less emphasis on denouncing sins.

But progress has slowed during recent months due to divisions and partisanship within church leadership, between those who oppose the Pope’s relatively liberal stances and those who think that he needs to be even more decisive.

In light of this debate, Sunday's mass served as an opportunity for the Pope to reiterate his message.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian priest who works with the Vatican communications office, tweeted that “more than anything I’ve heard from (the pope) today’s homily is his mission statement."

That mission statement focused on helping those who are discriminated against, no matter who they are.

Francis said that Catholics, particularly the cardinals appointed by the church, should should see God in the hungry and the unemployed, the incarcerated, and “even in those who have lost their faith, or declared themselves to be atheists, or turned away from the practice of the faith.”

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