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Gerard O’ConnellNovember 21, 2016
Pope Francis presents his apostolic letter, "Misericordia et Misera," (Mercy and Misery) to a woman in a wheelchair at the conclusion of the closing Mass of the jubilee Year of Mercy in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. In the letter the pope called for several special initiatives begun during the Year of Mercy to continue on a permanent basis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In an apostolic letter at the close of the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has called on the Catholic Church worldwide “to promote a culture of mercy in which no one looks at another with indifference or turns away from the suffering of our brothers and sisters.”

In this 19-page text called “Misericordia et Misera,” (“Mercy and Misery”) the Argentine pope issues a clarion call to the whole church and to individual Catholics “to set in motion a real cultural revolution, beginning with simple gestures capable of reaching body and spirit, people’s very lives.” He sees the urgent need for this in today’s world, which, as he told the new cardinals on Nov. 19, is badly marked by polarization, violence, exclusion and the pathology of indifference.

He wants the church to be an instrument of mercy in this wounded world, to be a field hospital. In a particularly striking decision aimed at healing the grave wound caused by abortion, Francis has given priests worldwide the faculty to pardon the sin of abortion. He had given them that authority for the duration of the Jubilee Year, and now—while reaffirming his total condemnation of abortion—he extends this faculty indefinitely to every priest, making clear to the world that “there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart.”

He has also decided to extend the faculty to absolve sins to the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X, which he had given them during the Jubilee. He gave this extension “until further provisions are made” trusting in their good will “to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion in the Catholic Church.”

Francis signed the 19-page letter in St. Peter’s Square on Nov. 20, and the Vatican released it at a press conference this morning.

He made clear that he has written it so as to ensure that the Catholic Church’s focus on mercy does not end with the closing of the Holy Door and the Jubilee Year. It cannot end there he insisted, because “mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the Church; it constitutes her very existence, through which the profound truths of the Gospel are made manifest and tangible. Everything is revealed in mercy; everything is resolved in the merciful love of the Father.”

The Jesuit pope emphasized that “now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace. The Church today needs to tell of those ‘many other signs’ that Jesus worked, which ‘are not written’ (Jn 20:30).” He calls for “fantasy” in doing this and recalls that two thousand years have passed but still today “works of mercy continue to make God’s goodness visible.”

They are particularly necessary today, he said, in world where “whole peoples suffer hunger and thirst, and we are haunted by pictures of children with nothing to eat,” and so many “continue to migrate from one country to another in search of food, work, shelter and peace.” Mercy is necessary too, he said, to combat diseases, to change the inhuman conditions in so many prisons, to overcome illiteracy, to prevent children being swept into new forms of slavery.

The works of mercy are urgently needed in a world where “the culture of extreme individualism, especially in the West, has led to a loss of a sense of solidarity with and responsibility for others.” They are needed today in a world when “so many people have no experience of God himself, and this represents the greatest poverty and the major obstacle to recognition of the inviolable dignity of human life."

He went onto highlight the immense “social value” of the corporal and spiritual works He said “mercy impels us to roll up our sleeves and set about restoring dignity to millions of people, our brothers and sister.”

He recalled that many concrete signs of mercy have been performed during this Holy Year but, he said, “this is not enough. Our world continues to create new forms of spiritual and material poverty that assault human dignity. For this reason, the Church must always be vigilant and ready to identify new works of mercy and to practice them with generosity and enthusiasm.”

In the letter, Francis explains how the bible and the whole of the church’s liturgy and celebration of the sacraments—especially the sacrament of reconciliation—highlight the fact of God’s mercy and, in various ways, he encourages bishops and priests to make full use of these occasions to share God’s mercy with people.

He calls for the celebration throughout the Catholic world of  “A World Day for the Poor” and also “A Day for the Bible” in each church every year.

Pope Francis in this long letter declares again and again that “this is the time for mercy for each and all of us.” It is the time of mercy, he said, because those who are weak and vulnerable, distant and alone, ought to feel the presence of brothers and sisters who can help them in their need.”

It is the time of mercy, he concluded, “because the poor should feel that they are regarded with respect and concern by others who have overcome indifference and discovered what is essential in life” and “because no sinner can ever tire of asking forgiveness and all can feel the welcoming embrace of the Father.”

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Vincent Gaglione
7 years 5 months ago
It is hard to describe the feelings of joy and peace that Pope Francis instills in my heart for his constant refrains of mercy to all people and his call for us to care for the poor, the disenfranchised, the sick and suffering, the victims of wars, in reality, for all God’s creations. I had a priest friend, a pastor whose constant refrain to his parishioners was “God bless the whole world, no exceptions.” At his funeral, when the beginning of that mantra was stated by the homilist, the packed church responded, “no exceptions.” It seems to me that Francis’ mantra has become, “God’s mercy on the whole world, no exceptions.” What a soul-refreshing and soul-quenching attitude that he gives to the Catholic Church in these times of great upheavals and polarizations! Now if only EACH OF US internalizes and embodies what he suggests, NO EXCEPTIONS...only with God's grace and mercy!
William Rydberg
7 years 5 months ago
Can somebody explain why the Holy Father has such a practical dislike for Missiology? Seems that nearly every article I read has the Holy Father speaking badly of proselytizing... It seems that he has a kind of blind-spot... I suppose that if his objective is to re-evangelize the 1.4 billion Catholics only, it's a fine strategy... But should one want to evangelize the world focussing on 19% (Catholics) doesn't seem to be the way to evangelize the 7.5 Billion World population... I think that the Missiology Experts in the Church really ought to try to get the Holy Father's ear. There may be drawbacks associated with spending one's life in the "Catholic Ocean" that is South America. I don't think that the Holy Father is that well-travelled. I don't think he ever visited the United States or CANADA before he was Pope. Bottom line, he may need to be nudged to think bigger... because it's hard to understand a need for divine Mercy when one is unclear on the Nature of the Divine... Which is likely the case for the 81% who are not Catholics in this World... in Christ, The King...
Crystal Watson
7 years 5 months ago
It seems odd that people who commit murder can be forgiven by a priest, but people who get abortions have needed to be forgiven by bishops up until now. Why are people who get abortions excommunicated but not those who are murderers?
Tim O'Leary
7 years 4 months ago
Crystal - It has long been part of Catholic doctrine that abortion is a particularly bad type of murder, for at least 3 reasons: 1. The innocence of the child 2. The closeness of the relationship (filicide is like matricide in its attack against nature) 3. The intentional killing before baptism From the earliest times - 70 AD Didache (2:1-2) You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child" - to 1995 - St. Mother Teresa "If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other" - to Pope Francis this week "I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life." There are 9 sins that cause automatic excommunication, including violating the sacred species, the seal of confession, sacramentally absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin, and consecrating a bishop without authorization.
Crystal Watson
7 years 4 months ago
Thanks for the information. I don't doubt there's some historical basis for the these doctrines, but what bothers me is that it has nothing or very little to do with the bible or what Jesus taught .... there should be a better reason than tradition for the church's teachings.
Tim O'Leary
7 years 4 months ago
Crystal – just like today, certain crimes or sins are not discussed because their approval would be unthinkable. So, Jesus never spoke about child sacrifice, bestiality or other sins condemned in the OT, not at all to infer they are not grave sins, but because there was no dispute about them. The same with abortion in Jewish culture at the time (unlike Greco-Roman culture that the Didache had to object to). Since the Scriptures clearly prohibit the shedding of innocent humans (Ex 20:13, etc.), you could look to see if they treat the unborn as human. The phrase “with child” is often used concerning a pregnancy, including Mary with Jesus (Mt 1:18, Lk 2:5). In Luke 1:41, John the Baptist is described as leaping in the womb when a pregnant Mary comes into the presence of Elizabeth. There are other pieces of evidence or logical arguments. But, if you knew for certain that abortion was a great offense to God as all of Christian history taught, would you accept it and live according to it?
Crystal Watson
7 years 4 months ago
If there was a way to know that God thought abortion was wrong, I would be conflicted but I would try to see it his way. But there really isn't any way to be absolutely sure and I don't find the pro-choice argument persuasive. Jesus seems to speak clearly against divorce, but I think getting a divorce is ok, if unfortunate .... I guess at the end of the day, I listen to my conscience more than church teaching or even the NT.
7 years 4 months ago
"Calmly and reasonably explain to your uncle why Donald Trump was the wrong choice for president while your uncle quietly bleeds to death on the floor, the carving knife protruding from his chest." - Samantha Bee https://medium.com/@fullfrontalsamb/tips-for-talking-politics-at-thanksgiving-a1b4c172145#.ozcpnx4vs Such is the mindset of some Amercians...they always have a justification for extinguishing life.
Tim O'Leary
7 years 4 months ago
What a beautiful and hopeful Apostolic letter! I especially loved the Holy Father's demonstration of how the whole Mass is pervaded with prayers of mercy.

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