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Pope wants year of Mercy to tenderly transform the world

When Pope Francis planned the Year of Mercy and the opening of the Holy Door, he did not mean to give the starting signal for a frenzied wave of pilgrims to Rome.

More than call to sign up for an Eternal City package tour, the pope is inviting people to strike out on a yearlong spiritual journey to recognize a loving God who's already knocking on their door.

He says he wants the Year of Mercy to usher in a "revolution of tenderness."

Once people realize "I'm wretched, but God loves me the way I am," then "I, too, have to love others the same way," the pope said in an interview published just a few days before the Dec. 8 start of the jubilee year.

Discovering God's generous love kick-starts a virtuous circle, which "leads us to acting in a way that's more tolerant, patient, tender" and just, he said.

Speaking with "Credere," an Italian weekly magazine run by the Pauline Fathers, the pope gave an in-depth look at why he sees such an urgent need to highlight God's mercy.

"The world needs to discover that God is father, that there is mercy, that cruelty is not the path, that condemnation is not the path," he said. "Because the Church herself sometimes follows a hard line, she falls into the temptation of following a hard line, into the temptation of underlining only moral norms, but so many people remain on the outside," he said.

The pope said the thought of all those people – sinners, the doubtful, the wounded and disenfranchised – conjured up that iconic image of seeing the Church "as a field hospital after the battle."

"The wounded are to be treated, helped to heal, not subjected to cholesterol tests," he said, meaning a too narrow scrutiny of minutiae delays staving off the broader disease of conflict and indifference. He once illustrated the same concept by painting a visual image of pastors who prefer to coif and comb the wool of the tiny flock in the pews rather than seek the sheep that are outside in danger or lost.

"I believe this is the time for mercy. We are all sinners, we all carry burdens within us. I felt Jesus wants to open the door of his heart," he said in the magazine interview.

The opening of the holy doors in Rome and around the world are a symbol of how Jesus is opening the door of his heart.

In fact, dioceses have been asked to designate and open their own "Door of Mercy" in a cathedral, an important church or sanctuary. The pope also will send out from Rome "missionaries of mercy" – priests mandated to the world's peripheries to show patience and compassion in their ministry.

Such gestures suggest the pope still wants people to avoid the expense of travel – like his post-election suggestion to fans back home in Argentina to give to the poor the money they would have spent for a trip.

To help people at home feel "just like being there" in Rome, the Vatican television center will start broad-casting major papal events during the Holy Year in latest generation "Ultra HD 4K" resolution as well as HD, 3D and standard definition.

From the very start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has been showing what the way of mercy means.

The pope's very first Angelus address and homily in 2013 centered on mercy, as he explained God always waits for that day of awakening and conversion, then forgives everything. The real problem is people – not God – who give up on forgiveness, he said.

But mercy changes everything, he said; it "makes the world a little less cold and more just."

The pope's own religious vocation is rooted in that concrete experience of mercy, when he – as a 17-yearold student – walked out of a confessional "different, changed." It was the feast of St. Matthew, and like St. Matthew, he was overcome, feeling "God looked at me with mercy" and said, "Follow me."

Realizing God knows he's a sinner, but embraces him anyway lies at the heart of Pope Francis' ministry and his motto: "By showing mercy, by choosing," based on "The Call of St. Matthew."

He said in the magazine interview that one Friday of every month during the Year of Mercy "I will make a different gesture" that shows God's mercy. He had asked the world's young people to rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, like feeding the hungry and counsel the doubtful, and choose one to practice each month as they prepare for World Youth Day in July. (CNS)

 
  • Published in Vatican

No one is excluded from the mercy of God, pope says at audience


Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians are called to work together in order to be a visible sign that God's mercy excludes no one, Pope Francis said during his general audience Jan. 20.

The pope reflected on the theme of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which was taken from the first letter of St. Peter and was selected by an ecumenical group from Latvia. The Lutheran cathedral of Riga, Latvia, he noted, contains a 12th-century baptismal font that serves as a sign of the common baptism that unites Catholics, Protestant and Orthodox Christians.

"St. Peter's first letter is addressed to the first generation of Christians to make them aware of the gift received through Baptism and the requirements it entails," the pope said. "We too, in this week of prayer, are invited to rediscover this and do this together, going beyond our divisions."

The pope said that although divisions are often caused by selfishness, the common baptism shared by Christians is an experience of being "called from the merciless and alienating darkness" to an encounter with God who is "full of mercy."

"To start once again from baptism means to rediscover the source of mercy, the source of hope for all, so that no one is excluded from God's mercy," he said. "No one is excluded from the mercy of God."

The grace of God's mercy, he added, is stronger than what divides Christians and in the measure one receives that grace, one becomes "capable of preaching to all his merciful deeds," especially through a witness of Christian unity.

"We Christians can announce to all the power of the Gospel by committing ourselves to share the corporal and spiritual works of mercy," he said. "This is a concrete witness of unity among us Christians: Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics."

Pope Francis emphasized that the week of prayer serves as a reminder that Christians share a common mission in passing on to others the mercy they have received, especially with "the poor and the abandoned."

"During this week of prayer, let us pray so that all of us, disciples of Christ, may find a way to work together to bring the mercy of the father to every part of the earth," the pope said. (CNS)

 
  • Published in Vatican

Pope tells women religious Vatican will study women deacons

Pope Francis told the heads of women's religious orders from around the world that he would set up a commission to study the New Testament deaconesses and he also insisted more can and should be done to involve lay and consecrated women in Church decision-making at every level.

Asked if he would establish "an official commission to study the question" of whether women could be admitted to the diaconate, Pope Francis responded: "I accept. It would be useful for the Church to clarify this question. I agree."

The pope spent more than an hour May 12 responding to questions posed by members of the International Union of Superiors General, repeatedly asking if they wanted further clarification.

"I like hearing your questions because they make me think," the pope told close to 900 superiors general, representing almost 500,000 sisters around the world. "I feel like a goalie, who is standing there waiting for the ball and not knowing where it's going to come from."

Asked about deaconesses in the New Testament and the possibility of the modern Church admitting women to the permanent diaconate, Pope Francis had said his understanding was that the women described as deaconesses in the Bible were not ordained like permanent deacons are. Mainly, he said, it appeared that they assisted with the baptism by immersion of other women and with the anointing of women.

However, he said, "I will ask the (Congregation for the) Doctrine of the Faith to tell me if there are studies on this."

Pope Francis also promised to have the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments send the UISG a full explanation of why women cannot give a homily at Mass. While women can preach at a Liturgy of the Word when there is not a celebration of the Eucharist, he said, at Mass the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are parts of a whole and only one who is ordained can preside and preach.

The main part of the question was about the lack of influence women religious are given in Church decision-making processes. Pope Francis said the obligation to listen to women in the parish, diocese and at the Vatican "is not a matter of feminism, but of right."

All the baptized–women and men, lay or consecrated–have been given gifts by the Holy Spirit for the good of the entire Church, he insisted. The entire Church suffers when some voices are excluded from the conversation, he said. (CNS)

  • Published in Vatican
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