This Tuesday, March 19, 2013, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we celebrate the formal inauguration of the Petrine ministry of Francis, Servant of the Servants of God. Saint Joseph is both patron of the universal Church, and principal patron of Canada.
On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of our country, I invite each member of our Church and everyone of good will to share in this moment of joy. Let us pray that God support and strengthen our new Pope in his ministry of universal pastor. May he lead, encourage and teach us all to give glory to God, and thus peace and good will to the world.
Pope Francis takes on the role of the Apostle Peter shown to us in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles: helping the disciples recognize Jesus and be a communion of love, strengthening us in the faith, witnessing to Jesus’ resurrection, and continuing Jesus’ ministry of healing and teaching (Mark 8.29,16.7; Matthew 16.18; Luke 22.32; John 20.6; Acts 2.14-49,3.2-10). He now serves, by the grace of God, as our “rock”.
From the outset, Pope Francis has invited us to turn to Mary, Mother of God, for her protection and intercession. This was manifested symbolically the day after his election, when he prayed to Our Lady at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, and left a bouquet of flowers on the altar.
Mary heard God and believed. She received into her very womb the Word made flesh. With Saint Joseph, she welcomed Jesus, and introduced him to the world. She learned from Jesus, and kept faith with him to the last. From the Cross, Jesus made Mary our mother in faith, and we her sons and daughters (John 19.26-27). With Mary, we introduce Jesus to our world, and are called to imitate Mary’s steadfast fidelity to our Lord, even in moments of betrayal, ignorance and suffering, so as to be effective witnesses to God’s life-giving glory.
With gratitude to God, let us welcome Pope Francis as he leads the Church into a new stage along the journey of evangelization and encounter. Just a few days ago, he told the Cardinals, “Do not give in to pessimism and discouragement…. [T]he Holy Spirit gives the Church… the courage to persevere and also to seek new methods of evangelization, to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The Christian truth is attractive and persuasive because it responds to the deep needs of human existence, convincingly announcing that Christ is the only Saviour of the whole person and of all persons.”
Together, with Pope Francis, let us move forward into the future, following the way of Christ, filled with the faith, hope and love we share with Mary, journeying to the Father, emboldened, inspired and united in the Holy Spirit.
+ Richard Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton and
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
18 March 2013