Jubilee Year of Mercy - Pope Francis

 

Complete text of Pope Francis' letter about the Jubilee of Mercy  2015-09-01 

The Pope has written a letter with some instructions for the Jubilee of Mercy.   

To My Venerable Brother Archbishop Rino Fisichella

President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization 

With the approach of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy I would like to focus on several points which I believe require attention to enable the celebration of the Holy Year to be for all believers a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God. It is indeed my wish that the Jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective. 

My thought first of all goes to all the faithful who, whether in individual Dioceses or as pilgrims to Rome, will experience the grace of the Jubilee. I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed. To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion. Likewise, I dispose that the Indulgence may be obtained in the Shrines in which the Door of Mercy is open and in the churches which traditionally are identified as Jubilee Churches. It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world. 

Additionally, I am thinking of those for whom, for various reasons, it will be impossible to enter the Holy Door, particularly the sick and people who are elderly and alone, often confined to the home. For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord who in the mystery of his Passion, death and Resurrection indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and loneliness. Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence. My thoughts also turn to those incarcerated, whose freedom is limited. The Jubilee Year has always constituted an opportunity for great amnesty, which is intended to include the many people who, despite deserving punishment, have become conscious of the injustice they worked and sincerely wish to re-enter society and make their honest contribution to it. May they all be touched in a tangible way by the mercy of the Father who wants to be close to those who have the greatest need of his forgiveness. They may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom. 

I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity. 

Furthermore, the Jubilee Indulgence can also be obtained for the deceased. We are bound to them by the witness of faith and charity that they have left us. Thus, as we remember them in the Eucharistic celebration, thus we can, in the great mystery of the Communion of Saints, pray for them, that the merciful Face of the Father free them of every remnant of fault and strongly embrace them in the unending beatitude. 

One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe they they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence. 

A final consideration concerns those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X. This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one. From various quarters, several Brother Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined however with an uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint. I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity. In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins. 

Trusting in the intercession of the Mother of Mercy, I entrust the preparations for this Extraordinary Jubilee Year to her protection. 

From the Vatican, 1 September 2015 

Francis

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Pope Francis' Message for World Youth Day 2016

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7)

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City State, September 28, 2015

Here is the English translation of Pope Francis' message for the XXXI World Youth Day which will be held in Krakow, Poland in 2016.

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Dear Young People,

We have come to the last stretch of our pilgrimage to Krakow, the place where we will celebrate the 31st World Youth Day next year in the month of July. We are being guided on this long and challenging path by Jesus’ words taken from the Sermon on the Mount. We began this journey in 2014 by meditating together on the first Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). The theme for 2015 was: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). During the year ahead, let us allow ourselves to be inspired by the words: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7).

1. The Jubilee of Mercy

With this theme, the Krakow 2016 WYD forms part of the Holy Year of Mercy and so becomes a Youth Jubilee at world level. It is not the first time that an international youth gathering has coincided with a Jubilee Year. Indeed, it was during the Holy Year of the Redemption (1983/1984) that Saint John Paul II first called on young people from around the world to come together on Palm Sunday. Then, during the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, over two million young people from around 165 countries gathered in Rome for the 15th World Youth Day. I am sure that the Youth Jubilee in Krakow will be, as on those two previous occasions, one of the high points of this Holy Year!

Perhaps some of you are asking: what is this Jubilee Year that is celebrated in the Church? The scriptural text of Leviticus 5 can help us to understand the meaning of a “jubilee” for the people of Israel. Every fifty years they heard the sounding of a trumpet (jobel) calling them (jobil) to celebrate a holy year as a time of reconciliation (jobal) for everyone. During that time they had to renew their good relations with God, with their neighbours and with creation, all in a spirit of gratuitousness. This fostered, among other things, debt forgiveness, special help for those who had fallen into poverty, an improvement in interpersonal relations and the freeing of slaves.

Jesus Christ came to proclaim and bring about the Lord’s everlasting time of grace. He brought good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed (cf. Lk 4:18-19). In Jesus, and particularly in his Paschal Mystery, the deeper meaning of the jubilee is fully realized. When the Church proclaims a jubilee in the name of Christ, we are all invited to experience a wonderful time of grace. The Church must offer abundant signs of God’s presence and closeness, and reawaken in people’s hearts the ability to look to the essentials. In particular, this Holy Year of Mercy is “a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy” (Homily at First Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday, 11 April 2015).

2. Merciful like the Father

The motto for this Extraordinary Jubilee is “Merciful like the Father” (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 13). This fits in with the theme of the next WYD, so let us try to better understand the meaning of divine mercy.

The Old Testament uses various terms when it speaks about mercy. The most meaningful of these are hesed and rahamim. The first, when applied to God, expresses God’s unfailing fidelity to the Covenant with his people whom he loves and forgives for ever. The second, rahamim, which literally means “entrails”, can be translated as “heartfelt mercy”. This particularly brings to mind the maternal womb and helps us understand that God’s love for his people is like that of a mother for her child. That is how it is presented by the prophet Isaiah: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Is 49:15). Love of this kind involves making space for others within ourselves and being able to sympathize, suffer and rejoice with our neighbours.

The biblical concept of mercy also includes the tangible presence of love that is faithful, freely given and able to forgive. In the following passage from Hosea, we have a beautiful example of God’s love, which the prophet compares to that of a father for his child: “When Israel was a child I loved him; out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me... Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks... I stooped to feed my child” (Hos 11:1-4). Despite the child’s wrong attitude that deserves punishment, a father’s love is faithful. He always forgives his repentant children. We see here how forgiveness is always included in mercy. It is “not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child... It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 6).

The New Testament speaks to us of divine mercy (eleos) as a synthesis of the work that Jesus came to accomplish in the world in the name of the Father (cf. Mt 9:13). Our Lord’s mercy can be seen especially when he bends down to human misery and shows his compassion for those in need of understanding, healing and forgiveness. Everything in Jesus speaks of mercy. Indeed, he himself is mercy.

In Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel we find the three parables of mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the parable of the prodigal son. In these three parables we are struck by God’s joy, the joy that God feels when he finds and forgives a sinner. Yes, it is God’s joy to forgive! This sums up the whole of the Gospel. “Each of us, each one of us, is that little lost lamb, the coin that was mislaid; each one of us is that son who has squandered his freedom on false idols, illusions of happiness, and has lost everything. But God does not forget us; the Father never abandons us. He is a patient Father, always waiting for us! He respects our freedom, but he remains faithful forever. And when we come back to him, he welcomes us like children into his house, for he never ceases, not for one instant, to wait for us with love. And his heart rejoices over every child who returns. He is celebrating because he is joy. God has this joy, when one of us sinners goes to him and asks his forgiveness” (Angelus, 15 September 2013).

God’s mercy is very real and we are all called to experience it firsthand. When I was seventeen years old, it happened one day that, as I was about to go out with friends, I decided to stop into a church first. I met a priest there who inspired great confidence, and I felt the desire to open my heart in Confession. That meeting changed my life! I discovered that when we open our hearts with humility and transparency, we can contemplate God’s mercy in a very concrete way. I felt certain that, in the person of that priest, God was already waiting for me even before I took the step of entering that church. We keep looking for God, but God is there before us, always looking for us, and he finds us first. Maybe one of you feels something weighing on your heart. You are thinking: I did this, I did that.... Do not be afraid! God is waiting for you! God is a Father and he is always waiting for us! It is so wonderful to feel the merciful embrace of the Father in the sacrament of Reconciliation, to discover that the confessional is a place of mercy, and to allow ourselves to be touched by the merciful love of the Lord who always forgives us!

You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope? Do you realize how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love? Saint Paul tells us that “God proves his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Do we really understand the power of these words?

I know how much the WYD cross means to all of you. It was a gift from Saint John Paul II and has been with you at all your World Meetings since 1984. So many changes and real conversions have taken place in the lives of young people who have encountered this simple bare cross! Perhaps you have asked yourselves the question: what is the origin of the extraordinary power of the cross? Here is the answer: the cross is the most eloquent sign of God’s mercy! It tells us that the measure of God’s love for humanity is to love without measure! Through the cross we can touch God’s mercy and be touched by that mercy! Here I would recall the episode of the two thieves crucified beside Jesus. One of them is arrogant and does not admit that he is a sinner. He mocks the Lord. The other acknowledges that he has done wrong; he turns to the Lord saying: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus looks at him with infinite mercy and replies: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (cf. Lk 23:32, 39-43). With which of the two do we identify? Is it with the arrogant one who does not acknowledge his own mistakes? Or is it with the other, who accepts that he is in need of divine mercy and begs for it with all his heart? It is in the Lord, who gave his life for us on the cross, that we will always find that unconditional love which sees our lives as something good and always gives us the chance to start again.

3. The amazing joy of being instruments of God’s mercy

The Word of God teaches us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). That is why the fifth Beatitude declares that the merciful are blessed. We know that the Lord loved us first. But we will be truly blessed and happy only when we enter into the divine “logic” of gift and gracious love, when we discover that God has loved us infinitely in order to make us capable of loving like Him, without measure. Saint John says: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love... In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 Jn 4:7-11).

After this very brief summary of how the Lord bestows his mercy upon us, I would like to give you some suggestions on how we can be instruments of this mercy for others.

I think of the example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. He said, “Jesus pays me a visit every morning in Holy Communion, and I return the visit in the meagre way I know how, visiting the poor”. Pier Giorgio was a young man who understood what it means to have a merciful heart that responds to those most in need. He gave them far more than material goods. He gave himself by giving his time, his words and his capacity to listen. He served the poor very quietly and unassumingly. He truly did what the Gospel tells us: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret” (Mt 6:3-4). Imagine that, on the day before his death when he was gravely ill, he was giving directions on how his friends in need should be helped. At his funeral, his family and friends were stunned by the presence of so many poor people unknown to them. They had been befriended and helped by the young Pier Giorgio.

I always like to link the Gospel Beatitudes with Matthew 25, where Jesus presents us with the works of mercy and tells us that we will be judged on them. I ask you, then, to rediscover the corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, assist the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead. Nor should we overlook the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, teach the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the sorrowful, forgive offences, patiently bear with troublesome people and pray to God for the living and the dead. As you can see, mercy does not just imply being a “good person” nor is it mere sentimentality. It is the measure of our authenticity as disciples of Jesus, and of our credibility as Christians in today’s world.

If you want me to be very specific, I would suggest that for the first seven months of 2016 you choose a corporal and a spiritual work of mercy to practice each month. Find inspiration in the prayer of Saint Faustina, a humble apostle of Divine Mercy in our times:

“Help me, O Lord, 
…that my eyes may be merciful, so that I will never be suspicious or judge by appearances, but always look for what is beautiful in my neighbours’ souls and be of help to them;
… that my ears may be merciful, so that I will be attentive to my neighbours’ needs, and not indifferent to their pains and complaints;
… that my tongue may be merciful, so that I will never speak badly of others, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all;
… that my hands may be merciful and full of good deeds;
… that my feet may be merciful, so that I will hasten to help my neighbour, despite my own fatigue and weariness;
… that my heart may be merciful, so that I myself will share in all the sufferings of my neighbour”
 (Diary, 163).

The Divine Mercy message is a very specific life plan because it involves action. One of the most obvious works of mercy, and perhaps the most difficult to put into practice, is to forgive those who have offended us, who have done us wrong or whom we consider to be enemies. “At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully” (Misericordiae Vultus, 9).

I meet so many young people who say that they are tired of this world being so divided, with clashes between supporters of different factions and so many wars, in some of which religion is being used as justification for violence. We must ask the Lord to give us the grace to be merciful to those who do us wrong. Jesus on the cross prayed for those who had crucified him: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). Mercy is the only way to overcome evil. Justice is necessary, very much so, but by itself it is not enough. Justice and mercy must go together. How I wish that we could join together in a chorus of prayer, from the depths of our hearts, to implore the Lord to have mercy on us and on the whole world!

4. Krakow is expecting us!

Only a few months are left before we meet in Poland. Krakow, the city of Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina Kowalska, is waiting for us with open arms and hearts. I believe that Divine Providence led us to the decision to celebrate the Youth Jubilee in that city which was home to those two great apostles of mercy in our times. John Paul II realized that this is the time of mercy. At the start of his pontificate, he wrote the encyclical Dives in Misericordia. In the Holy Year 2000 he canonized Sister Faustina and instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy, which now takes place on the Second Sunday of Easter. In 2002 he personally inaugurated the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow and entrusted the world to Divine Mercy, in the desire that this message would reach all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope: “This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness!” (Homily at the Dedication of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow, 17 August 2002).

Dear young people, at the Shrine in Krakow dedicated to the merciful Jesus, where he is depicted in the image venerated by the people of God, Jesus is waiting for you. He has confidence in you and is counting on you! He has so many things to say to each of you... Do not be afraid to look into his eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls. His eyes can quench the thirst that dwells deep in your young hearts, a thirst for love, for peace, for joy and for true happiness. Come to Him and do not be afraid! Come to him and say from the depths of your hearts: “Jesus, I trust in You!”. Let yourselves be touched by his boundless mercy, so that in turn you may become apostles of mercy by your actions, words and prayers in our world, wounded by selfishness, hatred and so much despair.

Carry with you the flame of Christ’s merciful love – as Saint John Paul II said – in every sphere of your daily life and to the very ends of the earth. In this mission, I am with you with my encouragement and prayers. I entrust all of you to Mary, Mother of Mercy, for this last stretch of the journey of spiritual preparation for the next WYD in Krakow. I bless all of you from my heart.

From the Vatican, 15 August 2015
Solemnity of the Assumption of the B.V. Mary

FRANCIS

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Saint Francis and Mercy

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., Preacher of the Papal Household, Reflects on the Connection Between the Poor One of Assisi and the Upcoming Jubilee Year

By Federico Cenci

Rome, October 06, 2015

A guiding thread unites the name then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose, once he was raised to the papal throne, and the institution of the Holy Year dedicated to Mercy. It is a thread born along the pebbles of the charming and Medieval Assisi, which unravels, leaving an indelible trail through the history of the Church, of Italy and of the whole of humanity.

Saint Francis, who grew up in the affluence and splendours of a rich family, immersed himself in a new humanity after having received the blessing of the Father of all mercy. An embrace that he received, accepted and loved, and which then extended to his neighbor, recognizing in everyone the face of Christ.

ZENIT invited Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., Papal Household Preacher, to suggest some reflections to our readers regarding the connection between Saint Francis and mercy. In fact in these days, a volume of Father Cantalamessa has gone on sale in bookstores, co-edited by ZENITBooks and Ancora publishers, entitled “In Love With Christ: The Secret of Saint Francis of Assisi"

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ZENIT: “The Lord himself led me among the lepers and used mercy with them.” Father Raniero, in his Testament, Saint Francis chose a very precise word -- mercy -- to indicate the beginning of his conversion.

Father Cantalamessa: Mercy was the first fruit of his drawing close to the Lord. Let’s not forget what St. Francis says in the same phrase; ‘the Lord led me among them.” There have been some (for instance, in times close to us, Simone Weil) who came to Christ from love of the poor and there have been others that have come to the poor from the love of Christ. St. Francis belongs to the latter. But this reflects the profound order that exists between works and grace. St. Francis first experienced God’s mercy to him, mercy as a free gift, and it is this that spurred him and gave him the strength to have mercy for the leper and the poor.

ZENIT: In your opinion, is there some episode in Saint Francis’ life in which, mainly, the face of mercy shines?

Father Cantalamessa: I recall in particular what the Poverello wrote to a minister one day (this is how he called the Superiors of his Order, namely, servants): “May there be no friar in the world, who has sinned, as much as it is possible to sin, that, after having seen your eyes, does not go away without your forgiveness, if he asks for it; and if he did not ask for forgiveness, you ask him if he wants to be forgiven. And if afterwards he should sin a thousand times before your eyes, love him more than me for this, so that you are able to attract him to the Lord, and always have mercy for such brothers” (Letter to a Minister – FF nr. 235).

ZENIT: What do mercy and the safeguarding of Creation have in common?

Father Cantalamessa: In his Encyclical on respect for Creation, Pope Francis writes: “The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’” (Rom 8:22) (“Laudato Si’ “, 2). St. Francis of Assisi, in whom the Encyclical is inspired, had already given a human face to Creation, making of every creature a brother or a sister: Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Mother Earth ... It’s true, the earth today, in fact, is like that poor man assaulted by brigands and left half dead on the road. Many pass by him and go on, pretending not to see or simply leaving to others, who will come after them, to be concerned with the problem. If it is thus, the Pope, with his courageous criticism, has shown himself a “Good Samaritan” for our “Sister, Mother Earth.” Of course, there is another, more “human” relation between mercy and the care of Creation and it is that to have respect for Creation means to have mercy for those that will come after us, and not leave them without resources for a fitting life on earth. The seven works of corporal mercy must also be read for the future: to give to eat to one that one day is hungry, to drink to one that one day is thirsty ...

ZENIT: The Extraordinary Holy Year coincides with the 800 years of the Forgiveness of Assisi. How was the request for this plenary indulgence born in Saint Francis, which he addressed to Pope Honorius III?

Father Cantalamessa: I don’t know enough to respond properly to this question  also because it’s known that there are controversial opinions, but I think that such a request could have stemmed only from St. Francis’ desire that the Lord’s Mercy reach every heart.

ZENIT: How can Saint Francis’ experience be a teacher of mercy for us men and women of today?

Father Cantalamessa: In many ways. One is to go to meet the “new lepers”

of today, the people avoided or kept at a distance by all; to go like him to the last, to the “existential fringes,” which also exist close to us. Above all St. Francis points out to us the source from which one can draw the strength to do this, and it is to see Christ in one’s brother, to recall that word of Christ: “You did it to me.”

ZENIT: The Synod of Bishops begins on October 4, Feast of Saint Francis. How can mercy speak to the crisis of today’s family?

Father Cantalamessa: Pope Francis has clearly put the whole discussion on the family and its problems under the sign of the mercy of God and of Christ. It is from the example of Christ, from his conduct towards the “irregular” of the time (Zaccheus, the Samaritan woman, the adulteress, the woman sinner) from which one must begin to resolve the thorny questions that the present crisis of the family presents to the Church. However, on this it is good to wait rather than anticipate the conclusions of the Synod.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On the Door of Mercy 

November 18, 2015

Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address at today’s general audience.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

With this reflection we have arrived at the threshold of the Jubilee, it is close. Before us is the door, but not only the Holy Door, the other – the great door of God’s Mercy, and it is a beautiful door! – which receives our repentance, offering the grace of His forgiveness. The door is generously open; a bit of courage is needed on our part to cross the threshold. Each one of us has within himself things that burden him. All of us. We are all sinners! Let us take advantage of this moment that is coming and cross the threshold of this mercy of God, who never tires of forgiving, never tires of waiting for us! He looks at us, He is always beside us. Courage! Let us go in through this door!

From the Synod of Bishops, which we held in the course of the month of October, all families and the entire Church received great encouragement to meet one another on the threshold of this open door. The Church was encouraged to open her doors, to go out with the Lord to encounter sons and daughters on the way, sometimes uncertain, sometimes lost, in these difficult times. Christian families in particular were encouraged to open the door to the Lord who waits to come in, bringing His blessing and His friendship. And if the door of God’s mercy is always open, the doors of our churches, of our communities, of our parishes, of our institutions, of our dioceses, must also be open, so that we can all go out to bring God’s mercy. The Jubilee signifies the great door of God’s mercy but also the small doors of our churches open to let the Lord come in – or many times to let the Lord go out – prisoner of our structures, of our egoism and of so many things.

The Lord never forces the door: He even asks permission to come in. The Book of Revelation says: ”Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (3:20). But let us imagine the Lord who knocks on the door of our heart! And, in the last great vision of this Book of Revelation, the City of God is prophesied thus: “its gates shall never be shut by day,” which means forever because “there shall be no night there” (21:25). There are places in the world where the doors are not locked, they still exist; but there are so many where armour-plated doors have become normal. We must not yield to the idea of having to apply this system to our whole life, to the life of the family, of the city, of the society, and even less so to the life of the Church. It would be terrible! An inhospitable Church, just as a family shut-in on itself, mortifies the Gospel and hardens the world. No armour-plated doors in the Church, none! Everything open!

The symbolic management of the “doors” – of the thresholds, of the passages, of the borders – has become crucial. A door must protect, certainly, but not push away. The door must not be forced, on the contrary, permission must be asked, because hospitality shines in the freedom of a welcome, and it is darkened in the arrogance of invasion. A door is often opened to see if someone is outside who is waiting, and perhaps does not have the courage -- perhaps not even the courage -- to knock. How many people have lost confidence, do not have the courage to knock on the door of our Christian heart, on the doors of our churches ... And they are there, they do not have the courage, we have taken away their confidence: please, let this not happen any more. The door says many things about a house, and also about the Church. The management of the door requires careful discernment and, at the same time, it must inspire great confidence. I would like to say a word of gratitude to all custodians of doors: of our condominiums, of civic institutions, of the churches themselves. Often the prudence and the kindness of the porter are capable of offering an image of humanity and welcome to the whole house, already from the entrance. We must learn from these men and women, who are custodians of places of encounter and welcome of the city of man! To all of you custodians of so many doors, be it doors of habitations, be it doors of churches, thank you so much! But always with a smile, always showing the hospitality of that house, of that church, thus the people feel happy and welcome in that place.

In truth, we know well that we ourselves are the custodians and servants of God’s Door, and how is God’s Door called? Jesus! He illumines us on all the doors of life, including those of our birth and of our death. He himself affirmed it: “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). Jesus is the door that makes us go in and out. Because God’s sheepfold is a shelter, it is not a prison! The House of God is a shelter, it is not a prison, and the door is called Jesus! And if the door is closed, we say: “Lord, open the door!” Jesus is the door and He makes us come in and go out. They are thieves who seek to avoid the door. It is curious, thieves always seek to enter another way, by the window, by the roof, but they avoid the door, because they have evil intentions, and they sneak into the sheepfold to deceive the sheep and to take advantage of them. We must pass through the door and listen to Jesus’ voice: if we hear His tone of voice, we are safe; we are saved. We can enter without fear and go out without danger. In this very beautiful discourse of Jesus, there is also talk of the guardian, who has the task to open to the Good Shepherd (cf. John 10:2). If the guardian hears the voice of the Shepherd, then he opens and has all the sheep enter that the Shepherd brings, all, including those lost in the woods, which the Good Shepherd went to bring back. The sheep are not chosen by the guardian, they are not chosen by the parish secretary or the parish’s secretariat; the sheep are all invited, they are chosen by the Good Shepherd. The guardian also obeys the voice of the Shepherd. See, we can well say that we must be like that guardian. The Church is the doorkeeper of the Lord’s House; she is not the proprietor of the Lord’s House.

The Holy Family of Nazareth knows well what it means to have an open or closed door, for one expecting a child, for one in need of shelter, for one who must escape from danger. May Christian families make the threshold of their home a small great sign of the Word of God’s Mercy and His welcome. It is in fact thus that the Church must be recognized, in every corner of the earth: as the custodian of a God that knocks, as the welcome of a God that does not close the door in your face, with the excuse that you are not of the house. We approach the Jubilee with this spirit: There will be the Holy Door, but it will be the door of God’s great mercy! May it also be the door of our heart for us all to receive God’s forgiveness and for us in turn to forgive, welcoming all those that knock on our door.

* * *

[Appeals]

Observed day-after-tomorrow will be the World Day of Children’s Rights. It is a duty of everyone to protect children and to put their good before any other criteria, so that they are no longer subjected to forms of slavery and mistreatment and also forms of exploitation. I hope that the International Community will carefully look after the life conditions of children, especially where they are exposed to recruitment by armed groups; and that it may also help families and guarantee every boy and girl the right to school and education.

* * *

On November 21, then, the Church recalls the Presentation of Mary Most Holy in the Temple. In this context, we thank the Lord for the gift of the vocation of men and women who, in monasteries and hermitages, have dedicated their lives to God. Let us not be lacking in spiritual and material closeness, so that cloistered communities can carry out their important mission in prayer and in active silence.

* * *

[Summary in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters: As the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy approaches, today we consider the great open door of God’s mercy, symbolized by the Holy Doors which will open in Churches throughout the world. The recent Synod of Bishops on the Family encouraged families in a particular way to enter this door of mercy and to open the doors of their hearts to others. Jesus tells us that he stands knocking at our door, asking that we open it to him (Rev 3:20). How important it is for us to be good doorkeepers, capable of opening our doors and making our homes places of encounter and welcome, especially to our brothers and sisters in need! Jesus also tells us that he himself is the door (Jn 10:9) which leads to salvation; if we pass through him, we will find lasting security and freedom. As guardians of that door, we in the Church are called to be welcoming to all who seek to enter the fold of the Good Shepherd. May the doors of our Christian homes be signs and symbols of the door of God’s mercy, a door ever open to all who knock and desire to meet Jesus.

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'I Believe This is the Time for Mercy,' Pope Tells Italian Magazine

Vatican City, December 02, 2015

Less than a week from the start of Jubilee Year in the Vatican, Pope Francis has said he believes this is the time for mercy and the Church needs to remember its role as field hospital to those who are 'wounded' and excluded. 

In an interview published today by the Holy Italian magazine “Credere,” ahead of the imminent opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Holy Father made this reflection, as he explained motives and expectations of this convocation. 

The following are extensive extracts from the interview, provided by Vatican Information Service.

***

Time for Mercy

“The theme of mercy has been strongly accentuated in the life of the Church, starting with Pope Paul VI. John Paul II underlined it firmly with Dives in Misericordia, the canonisation of St. Faustina and the institution of the feast of Divine Mercy on the Octave of Easter. In line with this, I felt that it was as if it was the Lord's wish to show His mercy to humanity. It was not something that came to my mind, but rather the relatively recent renewal of a tradition that has however always existed. … It is obvious that today's world is in need of mercy and compassion, or rather of the capacity for empathy. We are accustomed to bad news, cruel news and the worst atrocities that offend the name and the life of God. 

"The world needs to discover that God is the Father, that there is mercy, that cruelty is not the way, that condemnation is not the way, because it is the Church herself who at times takes a hard line, and falls into the temptation to follow a hard line and to underline moral rules only; many people are excluded. The image of the Church as a field hospital after a battle comes to mind here: it is the truth, so many people are injured and destroyed! … I believe that this is the time for mercy. We are all sinners, all of us carry inner burdens. I felt that Jesus wanted to open the door to His heart, that the Father wants to show us his innate mercy, and for this reason he sends us the Spirit. … It is the year of reconciliation. On the one hand we see the weapons trade … the murder of innocent people in the cruelest ways possible, the exploitation of people, of children. There is currently a form of sacrilege against humanity, because man is sacred, he is the image of the living God. And the Father says, 'stop and come to me'”.

Personal divine mercy

In response to a second question on the importance of divine mercy in the life of Pope Francis, who has repeatedly affirmed his awareness of being a sinner, he said: 

“I am a sinner … I am sure of this. I am a sinner whom the Lord looked upon with mercy. I am, as I said to detainees in Bolivia, a forgiven man. … I still make mistakes and commit sins, and I confess every fifteen or twenty days. And if I confess it is because I need to feel that God's mercy is still upon me”. Francis recalled that he felt this sensation in a particular way on 21 September 1953, when he felt the need to enter a church and confess to a priest he did not know, and from then his life was changed; he decided to become a priest and his confessor, who was suffering from leukemia, accompanied him for a year. “He died the following year”, said the Pope. “After the funeral I cried bitterly, I felt totally lost, as if with the fear that God had abandoned me. This was the moment in which I came across God's mercy, and it is closely linked to my episcopal motto: 21 September is the feast day of St. Matthew, and the Venerable Bede, when speaking of the conversion of St. Matthew, says that Jesus looked at him 'miserando atque eligendo'. … The literal translation would be 'pitying and choosing'”. 

God's 'Maternity'

The third question was: “Can the Jubilee of Mercy be an opportunity to rediscover God's 'maternity'? Is there an almost 'feminine' aspect of the Church that must be valued?”  

“Yes”, the Holy Father replies. “God Himself affirms this when He says in the Book of Isaiah that a mother could perhaps forget her child, even a mother can forget, but 'I will never forsake you'. Here we see the maternal dimension of God. Not everyone understands when we speak about God's maternity, it is not part of 'popular' language – in the good sense of the word – and may seem rather elitist; for this reason I prefer to speak about the tenderness, typical of a mother, God's tenderness that comes from his innate paternity. God is both father and mother”. 

In response to a question on whether the discovery of a more merciful and emotional God, Who is moved to tenderness for mankind, should lead to a change of attitude towards others, Francis says: “Discovering this leads us to have a more tolerant, more patient, more tender attitude. In 1994 during the Synod, in a group meeting, I said that it was necessary to begin a revolution of tenderness … and I continue to say that today the revolution is that of tenderness, because justice derives from this. … The revolution of tenderness is what we must cultivate today as the fruit of this year of mercy: God's tenderness towards each one of us. Each one of us must say, 'I am a wretch, but God loves me as I am; so, I must love others in the same way'”. 

The journalist recalls St. John XXIII's famous “Sermon to the moon”, in which greeting the faithful one night, he told them to give a caress to their children. “This image became an image of the Church's tenderness. In what way does the theme of mercy help our Christian communities to convert and renew themselves?” 

“When I see the sick, the elderly, the caress comes to me spontaneously. … The caress is a gesture that can be interpreted ambiguously, but it the first gesture that a mother and father offer a newborn child, this gesture that says 'I love you, I wish well to you'”.

Gesture

Finally, “Is there a gesture you intend to make during the Jubilee to show God's mercy?” 

There will be many gestures, but one Friday each month I will make a different gesture”, the Holy Father concluded. 

[Excerpts courtesy of Vatican Information Service] 

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Pope's Homily for Opening of Jubilee of Mercy

Vatican City, December 08, 2015

Below is the Vatican-provided text of Pope Francis’ homily for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception:

***

In a few moments I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door of Mercy. We carry out this act – as I did in Bangui – so simple yet so highly symbolic, in the light of the word of God which we have just heard. That word highlights the primacy of grace. Again and again these readings make us think of the words by which the angel Gabriel told an astonished young girl of the mystery which was about to enfold her: “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1:28).

The Virgin Mary was called to rejoice above all because of what the Lord accomplished in her. God’s grace enfolded her and made her worthy of becoming the Mother of Christ. When Gabriel entered her home, even the most profound and impenetrable of mysteries became for her a cause for joy, a cause for faith, a cause for abandonment to the message revealed to her. The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception expresses the grandeur of God’s love. Not only does he forgive sin, but in Mary he even averts the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world. This is the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves. The beginning of the history of sin in the Garden of Eden yields to a plan of saving love. The words of Genesis reflect our own daily experience: we are constantly tempted to disobedience, a disobedience expressed in wanting to go about our lives without regard for God’s will. This is the enmity which keeps striking at people’s lives, setting them in opposition to God’s plan. Yet the history of sin can only be understood in the light of God’s love and forgiveness. Sin can only be understood in this light. Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy. The word of God which we have just heard leaves no doubt about this. The Immaculate Virgin stands before us as a privileged witness of this promise and its fulfilment.

This Extraordinary Year is itself a gift of grace. To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. It is he who seeks us! It is he who comes to encounter us! This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy. How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy (cf. Saint Augustine, De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, 12, 24)! But that is the truth. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgement will always be in the light of his mercy. In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel thatwe ourselves are part of this mystery of loveof tenderness. Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things.

Today, here in Rome and in all the dioceses of the world, as we pass through the Holy Door, we also want to remember another door, which fifty years ago the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council opened to the world. This anniversary cannot be remembered only for the legacy of the Council’s documents, which testify to a great advance in faith. Before all else, the Council was an encounter. A genuine encounter between the Church and the men and women of our time. An encounter marked by the power of the Spirit, who impelled the Church to emerge from the shoals which for years had kept her self-enclosed so as to set out once again, with enthusiasm, on her missionary journey. It was the resumption of a journey of encountering people where they live: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces. Wherever there are people, the Church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel, and the mercy and forgiveness of God. After these decades, we again take up this missionary drive with the same power and enthusiasm. The Jubilee challenges us to this openness, and demands that we not neglect the spirit which emerged from Vatican II, the spirit of the Samaritan, as Blessed Paul VI expressed it at the conclusion of the Council. May our passing through the Holy Door today commit us to making our own the mercy of the Good Samaritan.

[Original Text: Italian]

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Pope Francis Pays Homage to the Virgin Mary at Piazza di Spagna

Rome, December 08, 2015

This afternoon, Pope Francis visited Piazza di Spagna, as part of celebrations for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Piazza was packed with people who welcomed the Pope saying ‘Viva il Papa!’

Following more than 50 years of tradition, in his official capacity as the Bishop of Rome, the Pope pays homage to the Virgin Mary by placing a bouquet at the base of the Column of the Immaculate Conception in the Piazza on 8th December each year.

The column and statue were originally erected with the help of 220 firemen, which is why the floral tributes always include a garland of flowers placed in the Virgin Mary’s arms by a member of Rome’s fire department.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception coincides this year with the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Holy Father addressed this theme when he prayed to Our Lady, asking for her mercy on families, children, young people, the elderly, the sick, the imprisoned and migrants, after which the choir present sung the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After the ceremony, the Holy Father spoke to and blessed many of those gathered in the square.

Virgin Mother,

On this day, the feast of your Immaculate Conception,

I pay homage to you in faith and love

On behalf of God’s holy people who live in this city and diocese.

I come before you in the name of families, with their joys and troubles;

On behalf of children and young people, exposed to life’s challenges;

On behalf of the elderly, laden with age and years of experience;

I come especially on behalf of the sick, the imprisoned,

And those who struggle.

As a leader I also come here for the sake of all those

Who have come from far-away lands in search of peace and work.

There is space for everyone beneath your cloak,

Because you are the Mother of Mercy.

Your heart is full of tenderness towards all your children:

The tenderness of God, who, by you, became incarnate

And became our brother, Jesus,

Saviour of every man and every woman.

Looking at you, Our Immaculate Mother,

We see the victory of divine mercy

Over sin and all its consequences;

And hope for a better life  is reignited within us,

Free from slavery, rancor and fear.

Here, today, in the heart of Rome, we hear your motherly voice

Calling all of us to walk towards that door,

Which represents Christ.

You say to everyone: “Come, come closer, faithful ones;

Enter and receive the gift of mercy;

Do not be afraid, do not be ashamed:

The Father awaits you with open arms.

He will forgive and welcome you into his house.

Come, all those in search of peace and joy”.

We thank you, Immaculate Mother,

Because you do not make us walk along this path alone;

You guide us, You are near us and help us through every difficulty.

May God bless you, now and forever. Amen.

(December 08, 2015)

 

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ANGELUS ADDRESS: On God's Mercy Which Awaits Us, Pardons All

Vatican City, December 08, 2015

Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis' Angelus address at noon today, on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Opening of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy:

* * 

Before the Angelus

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning and Feast!

Today, the feast of the Immaculate Conception makes us contemplate Our Lady who, by a singular privilege, was preserved from Original Sin from her conception. Although living in the world marked by sin, she was not touched by it: she is our Sister in suffering, but not in evil and in sin. In fact, evil was defeated in her even before grazing her, because God filled her with grace (cf. Luke 1:28). The Immaculate Conception means that Mary is the first saved by the Father’s infinite mercy, as the first fruit of the salvation that God wills to give, in Christ, every man and woman. Therefore, the Immaculate <Virgin> became the sublime icon of Divine Mercy that has conquered sin. And we, today, at the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy, want to look at this icon with confident love and contemplate her in all her splendor, imitating her faith.

In the Immaculate Conception of Mary we are invited to recognize the dawn of the new world, transformed by the saving work of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The dawn of the new creation wrought by Divine Mercy. Therefore, the Virgin Mary, never contaminated by sin and always full of God, is Mother of a new humanity. She is mother of a recreated world.

To celebrate this feast implies two things: to receive God fully and His merciful grace in our life; to become in turn architects of mercy through a genuine evangelical journey. Therefore, the feast of the Immaculate Conception becomes the feast of us all if, with our daily “yes,” we are able to overcome our egoism and to render the lives of our brothers happier, to give them hope, drying tears and giving a bit of joy. In imitation of Mary, we are called to become bearers of Christ and witnesses of His love, looking first of all at those who are the privileged ones in Jesus’ eyes. They are those who He himself indicated: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36).

Today’s feast of the Immaculate Conception has a specific message to communicate to us: it reminds us that in our life everything is gift, everything is mercy. May the Holy Virgin, first fruit of the saved, model of the Church, holy and immaculate Bride loved by the Lord, help us to rediscover always more divine mercy as the distinguishing mark of a Christian. It is the word-synthesis of the Gospel: mercy. It is the fundamental feature of Christ’s face, that face that we recognize in the different aspects of His existence: when He goes to encounter all, when He cures the sick, when He sits at table with sinners, and especially when, nailed to the cross, He forgives. We see there the face of Divine Mercy. Let's not be afraid: let us allow ourselves to be embraced by the mercy of God that waits for us and pardons everything. Nothing is sweeter than His mercy. Let's let ourselves be caressed by God: He is so good, the Lord, and He pardons everything.

Through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, may mercy take possession of our hearts and transform our whole life.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Holy Year of Mercy

Vatican City, December 09, 2015

Below is a translation of Pope Francis' address during this morning’s General Audience in St. Peter's Square:

* * *

THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

Yesterday, I opened here, in Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy, after having opened it already in the Cathedral of Bangui in the Central African Republic. Today, I would like to reflect together with you on the meaning of this Holy Year, responding to the question: Why a Jubilee of Mercy? What does this mean?

The Church is in need of this extraordinary moment. I do not say: this extraordinary moment is good for the Church. I say: the Church is in need of this extraordinary moment. In our age of profound changes, the Church is called to offer her particular contribution, rendering visible the signs of the presence and closeness of God. And the Jubilee is a favorable time for all of us because, by contemplating the Divine Mercy, which surpasses every human limitation and shines on the darkness of sin, we can become more convinced and effective witnesses.

To turn one’s look to God, our Merciful Father, and to brothers in need of mercy, means to focus our attention on the essential content of the Gospel: Jesus, Mercy made flesh, which renders visible to our eyes the great mystery of the Trinitarian Love of God. To celebrate a Jubilee of Mercy means to put again at the center of our personal life and of that of our communities what is specific to the Christian faith, namely Jesus Christ, the merciful God.

Therefore, a Holy Year to live mercy. Yes, dear brothers and sisters, this Holy Year is offered to us to experience in our life the sweet and gentle touch of the forgiveness of God, his presence at our side and His closeness especially in moments of greatest need.

Therefore, this Jubilee is a privileged moment for the Church to learn to choose only “what pleases God most.” And, what is it that ‘pleases God most”? To forgive His children, to have mercy on them, so that they also, in turn, can forgive their brothers, shining as torches of God’s mercy in the world. This is what pleases God most. In a book that he wrote on Adam, Saint Ambrose takes up the history of the creation of the world and says that every day, after having made something,  -- the moon, the sun or the animals – “God saw that this was good.” However, when he made man and woman, the Bible says: “He saw that this was very good.” Saint Ambrose wonders: “But why does He say “very good”? Why is God so happy after the creation of man and woman?  Because, finally, He had someone to forgive. This is beautiful: God’s joy is to forgive; God’s being is mercy. Therefore, in this year, we must open our hearts so that this love, this joy of God fills all of us with this mercy. The Jubilee will be a “favorable time” for the Church if we learn to choose “what pleases God most,” without yielding to the temptation of thinking that there is something else that is more important or a priority. Nothing is more important to choose than “what pleases God most,” namely, His mercy, His love, His tenderness, His embrace, His caresses!

The necessary work of renewal of the institutions and the structures of the Church is also a means that must lead us to have the living and vivifying experience of God’s mercy, which alone can guarantee that the Church is that city placed on the mountain that cannot remain hidden (cf. Matthew 5:14). Only a merciful Church shines! If we were to forget, even for a moment, that mercy is “what pleases God most,” every effort of ours would be in vain, because we would become slaves of our institutions and of our structures, no matter how renewed they are. But we would always be slaves.

“To feel strongly in us the joy of being found again by Jesus, who as Good Shepherd came to find us because we were lost” (Homily in the First Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday, April 11, 2015): this is the objective that the Church sets for herself this Holy Year. Thus, we will reinforce in ourselves the certainty that mercy can really contribute to the building of a more human world. Especially in these our times, in which forgiveness is a rare guest in the ambits of human life, the call to mercy is more urgent, and this in every place: in society, in institutions, in work and also in the family.

Someone, of course, could object: “But Father, should not the Church do something more in this Year? It’s right to contemplate God’s mercy, but there are many urgent needs!” It’s true, there is much to do and I, for one, never tire of recalling it. But it is necessary to keep in mind that, at the root of the forgetfulness of mercy, there is also self love. In the world, this takes the form of the exclusive search of one’s interests, of pleasures and honors joined to the desire to accumulate riches, while the life of Christians is often crossed by hypocrisy and worldliness. All these things are contrary to mercy. The motions of self-love, which render mercy foreign in the world, are so many and numerous that we are often unable to recognize them as limitations and as sin. See why it is necessary to recognize ourselves sinners, to reinforce in us the certainty of Divine Mercy. “Lord, I am a sinner; come with your mercy.” This is a most beautiful prayer. It’s an easy prayer to say every day: “Lord, I am a sinner; come with your mercy.”

Dear brothers and sisters, I hope that, in this Holy Year, each one of us will experience God’s mercy, to be witnesses of “what pleases Him most.”  Is it of the naive to believe that this can change the world? Yes, humanly speaking it is of the foolish, but “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

[Original text: Italian]

 

Greeting in English:

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: With the opening of the Holy Door yesterday in Saint Peter’s, we inaugurated the Jubilee of Mercy. This extraordinary Holy Year reminds us that, amid profound changes in our world, the Church is called to bear convincing witness to God’s mercy, which alone can triumph over human sin and bring true freedom. God’s mercy, made present in our midst by the incarnation of his Son, is the very heart of the Gospel. This Year of Grace reminds us that mercy is what “pleases God most”, and that it has to find clear expression in our lives and in the Church’s structures. In today’s world, mercy and forgiveness often appear overwhelmed by self-interest, hedonism and venality, while in the Christian life they can be stifled by hypocrisy and worldliness. Forgetfulness of God’s mercy blinds us even to seeing sin for what it is. That is why this Holy Year of Mercy is so important. Let us ask the Lord to make us ever more aware of his mercy at work in our lives and ever more effective in testifying to its transforming power in our world.

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Dec 13

Below is a Vatican Radio translation of Pope Francis’ homily  for the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, at Rome's  Basilica of St. John Lateran, where the Holy Father opened its Holy Door of Mercy this morning:

***

The invitation extended by the Prophet to the ancient city of Jerusalem is also addressed today to the whole Church and each one of us: "Rejoice ... exault!" (Zephaniah 3:14). The reason for joy is expressed with words that inspire hope, and which can look to the future with serenity. The Lord has annulled every condemnation and chose to live among us.

This third Sunday of Advent draws our gaze towards Christmas, which is now close. We cannot let ourselves be taken in by weariness; sadness in any form is not allowed, even though we have reason (for sadness), with many concerns and the many forms of violence which hurt our humanity. The coming of the Lord, however, must fill our hearts with joy. The prophet Zephaniah, in whose very name is inscribed  the content of this announcement, opens our hearts to trust: "God protects" His people. In a historical context of great abuse and violence, especially by men of power, God knows that He will reign over his people, who would never leave them at the mercy of the arrogance of their leaders, and will free them from all anxiety. Today, we are asked not to let our “hands grow weak” because of doubt, impatience or suffering.

The Apostle Paul takes with force the teaching of the prophet Zephaniah and reiterates: "The Lord is near" (Phil 4,5). Because of this we should rejoice always, and with our affability give all witness of closeness and care that God has for each person.

We have opened the Holy Door, here and in all the cathedrals of the world. Even this simple sign is an invitation to joy. It begins a time of the great forgiveness. It is the Jubilee of Mercy. It is time to rediscover the presence of God and his fatherly tenderness. God does not love rigidity. He is Father; He is tender; everything done with the tenderness of the Father. We too, like the crowds asked John, "What do we do?" (Lk 3:10). The response of the Baptist was immediate. He invites us to act justly and to look after the needs of those in need. What John demands of his representatives, however, it is what is reflected in the law. We, however, are prompted toward a more radical commitment. Before the Holy Door we are called to cross, we are asked to be instruments of mercy, knowing that we will be judged on this. He who is baptized knows he has a greater commitment. Faith in Christ leads to a journey that lasts for a lifetime: to be merciful, like the Father. The joy of crossing through the Door of Mercy is accompanied by a commitment to welcome and witness to a love that goes beyond justice, a love that knows no boundaries. It is from this infinite love that we are responsible, in spite of our contradictions.

We pray for us and for all who pass through the Door of Mercy, that we may understand and welcome the infinite love of our Heavenly Father, recreates, transforms and reforms life.

 

 

Below is a translation of Pope Francis' address during this morning's weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square: December 16

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THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Last Sunday, the Holy Door was opened in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Cathedral of Rome, and a Door of Mercy was opened in the Cathedral of every diocese of the world, as well as in shrines and churches indicated by bishops. The Jubilee is in the whole world, not only in Rome. I wanted this sign of the Holy Door to be present in every particular Church, so that the Jubilee of Mercy could become a shared experience by every person. Thus the Holy Year got underway in the whole Church and is celebrated in every diocese as at Rome. Moreover, the first Holy Door was opened in fact in the heart of Africa. And Rome, see, is the visible sign of the universal communion. May this ecclesial communion become ever more intense, so that the Church is a living sign of the Father’s love and mercy in the world.

The date of December 8 was also intended to stress this need, linking -- 50 years later -- the beginning of the Jubilee with the conclusion of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. In fact, the Council contemplated and presented the Church in the light of the mystery of communion. Spread throughout the world and articulated in so many particular Churches, it is, however, always and only the one Church of Jesus Christ, the one He desired and for which He offered Himself. The “one” Church that lives of the communion itself of God.

This mystery of communion, which renders the Church sign of the Father’s love, grows and matures in our heart, when the Love, which we recognize in the Cross of Christ and in which we immerse ourselves, makes us love as we ourselves are loved by Him. It is a love without end, which has the face of forgiveness and mercy.

However, mercy and forgiveness must not remain beautiful words, but be realized in daily life. To love and to forgive are the concrete and visible signs that faith has transformed our hearts and they enable us to express in ourselves the very life of God -- to love and forgive as God loves and forgives. This is a program of life that knows no interruptions or exceptions, but which pushes us to always go beyond without ever tiring, with the certainty of being supported by God’s paternal presence.

This great sign of Christian life is then transformed into many other signs that are characteristics of the Jubilee. I am thinking of all those who will cross one of the Holy Doors, which in this Year are true Doors of Mercy. The Door indicates Jesus Himself who said: “I am the door; if any one enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). To cross the Holy Door is the sign of our trust in the Lord Jesus, who did not come to judge, but to save (cf. John 12:47). Be careful that you do not come across someone who is a bit fast or too crafty who tells you that you must pay: no! Salvation cannot be paid for; salvation is not purchased. Jesus is the Door, and Jesus is free! He Himself spoke about those that make one go in as they shouldn’t, and He says simply that they are thieves and bandits. Again, be careful: salvation is free. To cross the Holy Door is the sign of a true conversion of our heart. When we cross that Door it is good to remember that we must also have the door of our heart wide open. I stand before the Holy Door and I ask: “Lord, help me to open wide the door of my heart!” The Holy Year will not be very effective if the door of our heart does not let Christ pass, who pushes us to go to others, to bring Him and his love. Therefore, as the Holy Door remains open, because it is the sign of the welcome that God Himself gives us, so our door also, that of our heart, must remain wide open not to exclude anyone, not even he or she who annoys me: no one.

Confession is also an important sign of the Jubilee. To approach the sacrament with which we are reconciled with God is equivalent to having a direct experience of His mercy. It is to meet the Father who forgives: God forgives everything. God understands us also in our limitations, He also understands us in our contradictions. Not only this, with His love He says to us that precisely when we acknowledge our sins He is still closer and spurs us to look ahead. He says more: that when we acknowledge our sins and ask for forgiveness, there is a celebration in Heaven. Jesus celebrates: this is His mercy: let us not be discouraged. Forward, forward with this!

How many times I’ve heard it said to me: “Father, I am unable to forgive my neighbor, my work companion, the lady next door, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law.” We have all felt this” “I am unable to forgive.” But how can we ask God to forgive us, if we are unable to forgive? And to forgive is something great, yet it’s not easy to forgive, because our heart is poor and it cannot do so on its own. However, if we open ourselves to receive God’s mercy for us, we in turn become capable of forgiving. I’ve heard it said so many times: “I couldn’t stand that person: I hated her. But one day I approached the Lord and asked him to forgive my sins, and I also forgave that person.” These are everyday things. And we have this possibility close to us.

 

Therefore, courage! Let us live the Jubilee by beginning with these signs that imply a great force of love. The Lord will accompany us to lead us to experience other important signs for our life. Courage and forward!

[Original text: Italian]

Greeting in English 

Speaker: Dear Brothers and Sisters: The Jubilee of Mercy was inaugurated this past week by the opening of the Holy Door, not only here in Rome but in dioceses worldwide, as a visible expression of our communion in the universal Church. Fifty years ago, the Second Vatican Council reminded us that the Church is called to be, in Christ, the visible sign of God’s merciful love for the entire human family. Each of us, by practicing charity, mercy and forgiveness, can be a sign of the power of God’s love to transform hearts and to bring reconciliation and peace. By passing through the Door of Mercy during this Holy Year, we show our desire to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s redemptive love. Jesus tells us that he himself is the door to eternal life (cf. Jn 10:9), and he asks us, through genuine conversion, to open the doors of our hearts to a more sincere love of God and neighbour. A special sign of grace in this Jubilee of Mercy is the sacrament of Penance, in which Christ invites us to acknowledge our sinfulness, to experience his mercy, and to receive the grace which can make us ever more effective signs of his reconciling love at work in our world.

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February 11, 2016      On the vigil of Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis received in audience priests who have been selected as Missionaries of Mercy for this jubilee. During the Mass of Ash Wednesday, they were given their mandate, including faculties to absolve certain sins reserved to the Holy See.

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Dear Brothers Priests, good evening!

It is a great pleasure to meet with you before giving you the mandate to be Missionaries of Mercy. It is a sign of special importance because it characterizes the Jubilee, and enables all the local Churches to live the unfathomable mystery of the Father’s mercy. To be a Missionary of Mercy is a responsibility that is entrusted to you, because it requires that you be personally witnesses of God’s closeness and of His way of loving. Not our way, always limited and at times contradictory, but His way of loving and His way of forgiving, which is in fact mercy. I would like to offer you some brief reflections, so that the mandate you will receive can be carried out in a coherent way and as a concrete help for the many persons who will approach you.

First of all I would like to remind you that in this ministry you are called to express the maternity of the Church. The Church is Mother because she always generates new children in the faith; the Church is Mother because she nourishes the faith; and the Church is also Mother because she offers God’s forgiveness, regenerating to a new life, fruit of conversion. We cannot run the risk of a penitent not perceiving the maternal presence of the Church, which receives and loves him. If this perception failed, because of our rigidity, it would cause, in the first place, a great harm for faith itself, because it would impede the penitent to see himself inserted in the Body of Christ. Moreover, it would greatly limit his feeling that he is part of a community. Instead, we are called to be the living expression of the Church that, as Mother, receives any one who approaches her, knowing that through her he is inserted in Christ. As we enter the confessional, we should always remember that it is Christ who welcomes, it is Christ who listens, it is Christ who forgives, it is Christ who gives peace. We are His ministers and, for starters, we are always in need of being forgiven by Him. Therefore, whatever the sin that is confessed – or which the person does not dare spell out, but makes it understood, is sufficient. Every missionary is called to remember his existence as a sinner and to place himself humbly as a “channel” of God’s mercy. And I confess to you fraternally that for me my confession of September 21 of ’53 is a source of joy, which reoriented my life. What did the priest say to me? I don’t remember. I remember that he smiled at me and then I don’t know what happened. But it is to welcome as a father …

Another important aspect is to be able to see the desire for forgiveness present in the penitent’s heart. It is a desire that is the fruit of grace and of its action in the life of persons, which enables one to feel the nostalgia of God, of His love and of His house. The heart turns to God, acknowledging the evil done but with the hope of obtaining forgiveness. And this desire is reinforced when one decides in one’s heart to change one’s life and to sin no more. It is the moment in which one entrusts oneself to God’s mercy, and has full confidence of being understood, forgiven and supported by Him. Let us give great space to this desire of God and of His forgiveness; let us have it emerge as a true expression of the grace of the Spirit who spurs to the conversion of heart. And here I recommend that you understand not only the language of the word, but also that of gestures. If someone comes to you and feels something must be removed from him, but perhaps he is unable to say it, but you understand … it’s all right, he says it this way, with the gesture of coming. First condition. Second, he is repentant. If someone comes to you it is because he doesn’t want to fall into these situations, but he doesn’t dare say it, he is afraid to say it and then not be able to do it. But if he cannot do it, ad impossibila nemo tenetur. And the Lord understands these things, the language of gestures. Have open arms, to understand what is inside that heart that cannot be said or said this way … somewhat because of shame … you understand me. You must receive everyone with the language with which they can speak.

Finally, I would like to mention a component of which there is not much talk, but which in fact is determinant: shame. It is not easy to put oneself before another man, although knowing that he represents God, and to confess one’s sin. One feels shame, be it for what one has done, be it for having to confess it to another. Shame is an intimate sentiment that cuts into one’s personal life and it requires on the part of the confessor an attitude of respect and encouragement. Often shame makes one mute and … The gesture, the language of the gesture. From the first pages, the Bible speaks of shame. After the sin of Adam and Eve, the sacred author notes immediately: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7). The first reaction of this shame is to hide themselves from God (Cf. Genesis 3:8-10)

There is also another passage of Genesis that strikes me and it is the story of Noah. We all know it, but we rarely remember the episode in which he was drunk. In the Bible, Noah is considered a just man yet, he is not without sin: his being drunk makes one understand how weak he was, to the point of failing in his dignity, a fact that Scripture expresses with the image of nakedness. However, two of his sons take his cloak and cover him so that he returns in the dignity of father.

This passage makes me say how important our role is in confession. Before us is a “naked” person, and also a person that doesn’t know how to speak and doesn’t know what to say, with his weakness and his limitations, with the shame of being a sinner, and so many times unable to say it. Let us not forget: the sin is not before us, but a repentant sinner, the sinner who would like not to be like this, but is unable <to change>, a person who feels the desire to be heard and to be forgiven. A sinner who promises that he doesn’t want to be estranged from the house of the Father and that, with the little strength he has, wants to do all he can to live as a child of God. Therefore, we are not called to judge, with a sense of superiority, as if we were immune from sin. On the contrary, we are called to act like Shem and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who took a cover to spare their father shame. To be a confessor according to the heart of Christ means to cover the sinner with the cover of mercy, so that he is no longer ashamed and is able to regain the joy of his filial dignity, and is also able to know where it is found again.

Therefore, it is not with the cudgel of judgment that we will be able to bring the lost sheep back to the sheepfold, but with the holiness of life that is the principle of renewal and of reform in the Church. Holiness is nourished by love and is able to take upon itself the weight of the one who is weaker. A Missionary of Mercy carries the sinner on his own shoulders, and consoles him with the strength of compassion. And the sinner who goes there, the person who goes there, finds a father. You have heard, I have also heard, so many people who say: “No, I don’t go anymore, because I went once and the priest beat me, he reprimanded me so much; or I went and he asked me some obscure questions, out of curiosity.” Please, this isn’t a good Pastor, this is a judge who perhaps thinks he hasn’t sinned, or is a poor sick man who is inquisitive with his questions. But I like to say to confessors: if you don’t feel you are a father, do not go to the confessional, it is better if you do something else. Because so much harm can be done, so much harm to a soul if it is not received with the heart of a father, with the heart of Mother Church. Some months ago I was speaking with a wise Cardinal of the Roman Curia about the questions that some priests ask in the confessional and he said to me: “When a person begins and I see that he wants to throw something out, and I remember I must understand, I say to him: I understand! Be tranquil!” And forward – this is a father.

I support you in this missionary adventure, giving you as examples two saintly ministers of God’s forgiveness, Saint Leopold and Saint Pio – there, among the Italians, there is a Capuchin that resembles Saint Leopold very much: small, with a beard … — together with so many other priests that in their life have witnessed God’s mercy. They will help you. When you feel the weight of the sins confessed to you and the limit of your person and of your words, trust in the strength of mercy that goes to encounter all as love and that knows no limits. And say as so many holy confessors: “Lord, I forgive, put it on my account!” And go forward. May the Mother of Mercy assist and protect you in this very precious service. My blessing accompanies you and you, please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.

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