Pope Calls for Church to be "Oasis of Mercy"

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
13 Apr 2015

The Jubilee of Mercy was proclaimed on Saturday prior to Divine Mercy Vespers at St Peter's Basilica in Rome

A Church which is more merciful and less judgemental - that is the desire of Pope Francis when he proclaimed an "Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy" Holy Year at St Peter's Basilica last Saturday evening.

The year begins on 8 December with Pope Francis opening the normally closed Holy Door of St Peter's Basilica, and ends on 20 November 2016.

The Holy Father said the Church must talk about God "in a more accessible way" and avoid "fortress" mentalities because its credibility depends on more mercy and less severity.

He announced that in cathedrals around the world a special "door of mercy" will stay open during Holy Year so churches become an "oasis of mercy".

By the year beginning on 8 December it commemorates both the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, which called the Church to proclaim the Gospel to the world in new ways, brining God's mercy to everyone.

The document developed three main themes.

Firstly, Pope Francis elaborates the theological understanding of God's mercy, explaining the role of mercy in the life of people and of the Church, who are both the beneficiaries and the witnesses to God's mercy in the world.

The Church should be an "oasis of mercy" - Pope Francis

"The mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality through which he reveals his love as that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child," the Pope writes.

"Mercy is the very foundation of the Church's life," he continues. "The Church's very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love."

He recalls that the motto of the Holy Year is "Merciful like the Father."

"Wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident," he writes. "Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy."

Secondly, the Pope offers practical ways to live well the Holy Year: go on pilgrimage as an "impetus to conversion"; do not judge or condemn but forgive and give, avoiding gossip, envy and jealousy; have a heart open to the fringes of society and bring consolation, mercy and solidarity to people who live in precarious situations; take up the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy with joy; and observe the "24 Hours for the Lord" initiative, which encourages prayer and the sacrament of reconciliation, in every diocese during Lent.

"Mercy is the very foundation of the Church's life" - Pope Francis.

He also addresses confessors, encouraging them to be "authentic signs of the Father's mercy." And, during Lent of the Holy Year, the Pope says he will send out "Missionaries of Mercy"-priests to whom he will grant "the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See." They will be "living signs of the Father's readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon," he writes.

Thirdly, the Pope issues particular calls for justice and conversion. He asks members of criminal organizations and those involved in corruption to change their lives and to embrace God's mercy.

He also notes that both Judaism and Islam "consider mercy to be one of God's most important attributes." And he expresses "trust that this Jubilee… will foster an encounter" with these and other religions that will "open us to even more fervent dialogue" toward greater knowledge and understanding, "eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect and drive out every form of violence and discrimination."

He also recalls the relationship between justice and mercy as "two dimensions of a single reality that…culminates in the fullness of love."

"God does not deny justice," he continues. "He rather envelopes it and surpasses it with an even greater event (mercy) in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice."

The pope concludes the bull with an invocation to Mary, witness to God's mercy and recalls saint who dedicated their lives to making God's mercy known, namely the Polish St Faustina Kowalska.

The Jubilee of Mercy will run from8 December 2015 to 20 November 2016

After excerpts from the document were read on Saturday evening, Pope Francis gave a copy of the bull to the cardinal archpriests of each of the four papal basilicas in Rome, as well as to cardinals from the different continents, representing the Church throughout the world.

As with all Jubilees, a plenary indulgence is granted during the Holy Year of Mercy for those who fulfill all of the usual requirements.

The Holy Year will conclude on November 20, 2016, on the feast of Christ the King.

Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy: