Officially proclaiming the upcoming jubilee year of mercy, Pope Francis has powerfully called on the entire Catholic Church to refashion itself as a place not of judgment or condemnation but of pardon and merciful love.
Writing in an extensive document convoking the year, which will begin on December 8th, the pontiff states that the church’s credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.”
“Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy,” writes Francis in the document, released Saturday evening with the Latin title Misericordiae Vultus (“The Face of Mercy”).
“The temptation…to focus exclusively onjustice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensible step,” the pope continues.
“It’s time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters,” writes the pontiff. “Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”
Pope Francis also notes that December 8th will mark the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council and says: “The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive.”
The jubilee, which is to be called the Holy Year of Mercy, beginning December 8th on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception will close on November 20, 2016, the day celebrated as Christ the King.
Explaining his reasons for calling the mercy jubilee with a 9,500-word document, the pontiff firmly identifies mercy as the central function of the church and the key aspect of Jesus’ ministry and work. Francis also says mercy is a key attribute of God’s actions towards human beings and that our own exercise of pardon will determine how we will eventually be judged.
“In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us,” he continues. “Pardoning offenses become the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves.”
Among other special initiatives for the holy year, Francis also announced that during the 2016 season of Lent he will be asking some priests to serve as special “Missionaries of Mercy”.
He will ask those priests to go around the world to hear confessions and that he will grant them “the authority to pardon even those sins reserved for the Holy See.”
Mentioning the fifth beatitude – “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” Pope Francis states that is the beatitude “to which we should particularly aspire in this Holy Year.”
“The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us,” writes Francis. “He feels responsible; that is, he desires our wellbeing and wants to see us happy, full of joy and peaceful.”
“This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel,” he continues. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.”
~ excerpts from the National Catholic Reporter