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Pope Francis to cardinals: Beware pessimism

March 15, 2013|By Tom Kington
  • Pope Francis prepares to greet cardinals in Sala Clementina at the Vatican.
Pope Francis prepares to greet cardinals in Sala Clementina at the Vatican. (Vatican TV / Associated…)

ROME -- Pope Francis urged cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church never to give in to pessimism, telling them Friday that they had crucial wisdom to pass on to the young, which he compared to “good wine” that gets better with time.

In his first audience with the Vatican’s College of Cardinals since his election Wednesday, Francis looked relaxed and smiled as he spoke, gesticulating as he drifted from his written speech, in contrast to the reserved manner of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

“Let us never give in to the pessimism, to that bitterness, that the devil offers us every day,” Francis said. “Let us not give in to pessimism and discouragement.”

The 76-year-old pontiff told the prelates -- men mostly in their 60s and 70s -- that “half of us” are old. But he said: “As I like to say, age is the seat of the wisdom of life.”

He added: “Let’s donate this to the young, like good wine that gets better with the years. Let’s give the young the wisdom of life.”

His first meeting with the crowd in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday after his election had been “loaded with emotion,” he said. He added he felt "the affection and the solidarity of the universal church” during the cardinals' conclave that elected him, and also the “respect” of non-Catholics.

He also praised Benedict XVI, calling the retired pope “a spiritual patrimony for all.”

Benedict, said Francis, “lit a flame in our hearts,” which would be sustained by his continuing prayers.

After his brief speech, the cardinals queued up to kiss Francis’ ring and congratulate him, their comments provoking frequent smiles and laughter from their new leader.

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