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Pope Francis met today with the cardinals in the Clementine Hall and spoke a bit about his predecessor, saying that Benedict XVI "lit a flame in the depths of our hearts.” The New York Times reports:

After a day on Thursday when he seemed to bring a new and more frugal tone to the Vatican, Francis spoke to the cardinals — the so-called princes of the church — urging them to persevere and find ways to spread word of their faith around the world.

“Let us not give in to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil offers us every day,” he said. But he offered no direct allusion to the myriad challenges facing the Vatican from a series of sexual abuse, financial and other scandals swirling around the church, overwhelming Benedict’s papacy.

The reference to the devil comes a day after his first homily, in which the newly elected pontiff said, "When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: "Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil." When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness." An emerging theme of the young pontificate seems to be that of spiritual battle against the devil, expressed in direct, simple language. Also:

In his first audience with the cardinals, Francis told them that Benedict’s papacy and teachings had “enriched and invigorated" the Catholic Church and had “lit a flame in the depths of our hearts that will continue to burn because it is fueled by his prayers that will support the church on its missionary path.”

Sometimes speaking without notes, Francis observed that many of the cardinals were of advanced age, and he told them: “Let us give this wisdom to young people; like good wine, it becomes better with age. Let us give to young people the wisdom of life.”

CNN.com reports:

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said Francis was making his own mark as the 266th pope -- and shaking things up a little.

As head of the church, the Argentine is following the same path he took during his years as archbishop in Buenos Aires, he said.

"He was a pastor there, very close to the people, and he's continued that -- he's simply changed the color of his robes right now, and the world is paying attention to every move, every word, every gesture," Rosica said.

"Those of us who were used to him in Buenos Aires are not at all surprised with this, but I can tell you that it does send some jolts through the system here, which is so deeply rooted in tradition and beautiful ceremonies and following the Book.

"Pope Francis is telling us that the Book is very important, but there's even something more important: Be faithful, be close to the people, smile and take things as they come."

Rosica said the media's focus on the scandals surrounding the church missed the point of why Francis was elected as pope.

"The cardinals chose someone who is a model of holiness, they chose someone who has a real passion for evangelization ... which is more than just a buzzword, this is what the church is all about.

"They chose someone who has an extraordinary record for compassion, for relating to people not just within the Catholic Church ... but those on the fringes, the poor, the destitute, the disenfranchised, those living in irregular relationships, those who have suffered, those who have brought suffering upon themselves."

Vatican Radio reports that the Holy Father concluded his talk to the cardinals by looking to the life to come, saying, "One day we will contemplate the Face of the Risen Christ through the intercession of Mary the Mother of the Church. I entrust my ministry, and your ministry, to her maternal protection. We all listen to the voice of her Son, persevering together in prayer and witnessing to the presence of the Lord."

 
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Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight.
 
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