“Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the Church”, because the story of Jesus’ meeting with the adulterous woman is an “icon” – not only of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy that has just ended – but also of Christian mode of life. The Jubilee ends, the Jubilee continues: in the Apostolic Letter “Misericordia et misera”, released today, Pope Francis affirms that “this is the time of mercy”, calling for a “pastoral conversion” that gives priority to the poor and to attentive listening to the faithful. “May our communities reach out to all who live in their midst, so that God’s caress may reach everyone through the witness of believers.” Francis’ invitation: the temptation to theorize “about” mercy can be overcome “to the extent that our daily life becomes one of participation and sharing.” The new elements of the document envisage the faculty for all priests, “in virtue of their ministry”, to “absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion”; the extension of the absolution of sins to the Lefebvrians “until new dispositions”; the continuation of the service of the “Missionaries of mercy”; the proposal to dedicate one Sunday to the study of the Holy Scriptures in dioceses and to establish a World Day for the Poor on the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time.
“In a culture often dominated by technology, sadness and loneliness appear to be on the rise, not least among young people.” The analysis of the Pope: for a future that is “not prey to uncertainty” mercy is the only antidote to “depression, sadness and boredom, which can gradually lead to despair.” The Pope expresses a firm No “to illusions that promise quick and easy happiness through artificial paradises”, Yes to mercy like a “a gusting but wholesome wind”, before which “we cannot remain unaffected, for it changes our lives”, as we have experienced during the Jubilee year that has just ended.
Now “it’s time to look ahead” through authentic “pastoral conversion” in the liturgy, in the sacraments, in catechesis, in listening to the Word of God, in the care and preparation of the homily.
“It is my great desire that the Word of God be better known and more widely diffused”, writes the Pope proposing one Sunday “given over entirely” to the Holy Scriptures, with initiatives of pastoral “creativity”, including the “transmission of the lectio divina.”
“The Sacrament of Reconciliation must regain its central place in the Christian life”, Francis recommended extending the ministry of all 1 142 “Missionaries of Mercy” sent to dioceses worldwide during the Jubilee. “We confessors” – added the Holy Father providing accurate instructions for carrying out the ministry – “feel responsible, then, for actions and words that can touch the heart of penitents and enable them to discover the closeness and tenderness of the Father who forgives.” Even “in the most complex cases.”
“I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion” is the most remarkable new disposition introduced by the document that extends, to the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, the faculty to absolve from sins the faithful attending their churches “until new provisions are made.”
“All of us need consolation”, Francis writes recalling one of the most original moments of the Jubilee of Mercy: the Vigil to dry the tears. At a time like our own, “marked by many crises”, “it is important to offer a word of comfort and strength to our families” whose situations will be evaluated with “a careful, profound and far-sighted spiritual discernment”, as recommended in Amoris Laetitia. Also the funeral liturgy must be protected from the tendency present in contemporary culture “to trivialize death to the point of treating it as an illusion or hiding it from sight.”
“The Jubilee now ends and the Holy Door is closed. But the door of mercy of our heart continues to remain wide open.” The Pope gives resonance to the words delivered during the closing Mass of the Jubilee, that set the entire Christian community “on the path of charity”, “the road of mercy, on which we meet so many of our brothers and sisters who reach out for someone to take their hand and become a companion on the way.”
“May our communities reach out to all who live in their midst, so that God’s caress may reach everyone through the witness of believers.” The temptation to “theorize about mercy”, Francis writes, can be overcome “to the extent that our daily life becomes one of participation and sharing.”
Mercy also has a “social value”, the Pope underlines, calling upon the community of believers “to roll up our sleeves and set about restoring dignity to millions of people; they are our brothers and sisters who, with us, are called to build a city which is reliable.” Many “concrete signs of mercy” have been performed during this Holy Year. “But this is not enough. Our world continues to create new forms of spiritual and material poverty that assault human dignity.” Hence “we are called to give new expression to the traditional works of mercy”, to set in motion a “culture of mercy”, that is a “revolution”, not theory.
“The poor will always be with you”, is the imperative underlying the establishment of a World Day for the Poor.
“This is the time of mercy”, Francis reiterates five times: “for each and all, since no one can think that he or she is cut off from God’s closeness and the power of his tender love.” The Pope’s inclusive gaze recalls another gaze, when “the two of them alone remained: mercy with misery”, as Saint Augustine said commenting on the image evoked by the title of the document that closes the Holy Year.