New Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez, archbishop of Bogotá, Colombia, receives the biretta cap from Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Basilica on Nov. 24, 2012, in Vatican City, Vatican. / Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Vatican City, Jan 3, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger demonstrated faithfulness, said Pope Paul VI in his address during the consistory of June 27, 1977, in which Ratzinger, then archbishop metropolitan of Munich and Freising, was created a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church.

Paul VI pointed to Ratzinger’s “theological teaching in prestigious university seats in his Germany and in numerous and worthy publications.”

Ratzinger, Paul VI continued, “has made apparent how theological research — in the main way of the ‘fides quaerens intellectum’ — cannot and should not be ever disconnected from the profound, free, creative adherence to the Magisterium, which authentically interprets and proclaims the Word of God; and that now, from the archiepiscopal seat of Munich and Freising he, with so much of our confidence, leads an elect flock on the paths of truth and peace.”

The future Pope Benedict XVI wore the red cassock for almost 28 years and always carried out, with the utmost dedication, the functions of a cardinal called for by canons 349 and 353 of the Code of Canon Law: “The cardinals of the Holy Roman Church constitute a special college which provides for the election of the Roman Pontiff according to the norm of special law. The cardinals assist the Roman Pontiff either collegially when they are convoked to deal with questions of major importance, or individually when they help the Roman Pontiff through the various offices they perform, especially in the daily care of the universal Church,” and “The cardinals especially assist the supreme pastor of the Church through collegial action in consistories in which they are gathered by order of the Roman Pontiff who presides. Consistories are either ordinary or extraordinary.”

Paul VI assigned Ratzinger the titular church of Santa Maria Consolatrice in Casal Bertone. In 1993, Pope John Paul II established his promotion to the order of bishops with the assignment of the title of the Diocese of Velletri-Segni, a suffragan diocese of Rome. In 1998, Ratzinger became vice deacon of the Sacred College, and after the resignation of Cardinal Deacon Bernardin Gantin in 2002, he was elected deacon of the College of Cardinals and assigned the titular Diocese of Ostia, also a suffragan diocese of Rome.

As cardinal deacon, in April 2005 Ratzinger presided over the funeral of John Paul II, the general congregations, and the conclave that then saw his election to the pontificate.

But what did being a cardinal mean to Ratzinger? Pope Benedict XVI himself responded several times to the question.

The red cap, the pope said during his first consistory in March 2006, was above all a responsibility. To the new cardinals he said: “More closely linked to the Successor of Peter, you will be called to work together with him in accomplishing his particular ecclesial service, and this will mean for you a more intense participation in the mystery of the cross as you share in the sufferings of Christ. All of us are truly witnesses of his sufferings today, in the world and also in the Church, and hence we also have a share in his glory. And so you will be able to draw more abundantly upon the sources of grace and to disseminate their life-giving fruits more effectively to those around you.”

At the November 2010 consistory, Benedict added that “the special communion and affection that bonds these new cardinals to the pope makes them his unique and precious cooperators in the lofty mandate to tend his sheep, which Christ entrusted to Peter in order to unite peoples with the solicitude of Christ’s love. From this same love the Church was born, called to live and to journey on in accordance with the Lord’s commandment, which sums up the whole of the law and the prophets. Being united with Christ in faith and in communion with him means being ‘rooted and grounded in love,’ the fabric that unites all the members of Christ’s Body.”

At his last consistory to create cardinals, in November 2012, Benedict repeated that “situated within the context and the perspective of the Church’s unity and universality is the College of Cardinals: it presents a variety of faces, because it expresses the face of the universal Church. In this consistory, I want to highlight in particular the fact that the Church is the Church of all peoples, and so she speaks in the various cultures of the different continents. She is the Church of Pentecost: amid the polyphony of the various voices, she raises a single harmonious song to the living God.”

He reminded the new cardinals that, “from now on, you will be even more closely and intimately linked to the See of Peter: the titles and deaconries of the churches of Rome will remind you of the bond that joins you, as members by a very special title, to this Church of Rome, which presides in universal charity. Particularly through the work you do for the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, you will be my valued co-workers, first and foremost in my apostolic ministry for the fullness of catholicity, as pastor of the whole flock of Christ and prime guarantor of its doctrine, discipline, and morals.”

In the course of his pontificate, Benedict presided over five consistories in which he created 90 cardinals originating from 37 countries.

This article was originally published in ACI Stampa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.