formally proclaim holy year in front of basilica's Holy Door
Celebrating the first vespers for Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis formally will deliver the "bull of induction" or proclamation of the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy.
Portions of the document will be read Saturday in front of the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican announced. The Holy Door, usually bricked up, is opened at the beginning of a jubilee year.
The Holy Year of Mercy is scheduled for
Dec. 8, 2015, to Nov. 20, 2016
Joy comes from faith, not doctrine, Pope Francis says
Proclaiming jubilee, Francis envisions non-judging, non-condemning church
J. McElwee | Apr. 11, 2015
Holy Year of Mercy
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 Dec. 8, the pontiff states that the church’s "very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate
"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
"The temptation ... to focus exclusively on justice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensable step," the pope continues.
time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more," he states.
"It is 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."
Francis also notes that Dec. 8 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."
Francis' document, released Saturday during a prayer service at St. Peter's
Basilica for the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, officially proclaims the extraordinary jubilee year the pontiff first announced last month.
The jubilee, which is to be called the Holy Year of Mercy, will begin
on this year's Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception. It will close on Nov. 20, 2016, the day celebrated that year as the feast of Christ the King.
Explaining his reasons for calling the mercy jubilee with
the some 9,500-word document Saturday, the pontiff firmly identifies mercy as the central function of the church and the key aspect of Jesus' ministry and work.
Exhaustively citing from the teachings of previous
popes and stories from the Old and New Testaments, 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.
one section, the pope quotes from Peter's question in Matthew's Gospel about how many times it is necessary to forgive, where Jesus responds: "I do not say seven times, but seventy times seventy times."
contains a profound teaching for all of us," states Francis. "Jesus affirms that mercy is not only an action of the Father, it becomes a criterion for ascertaining who his true children are."
"In short,we are called
to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us," he continues. "Pardoning offences becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves."
Later in the document, the pope mentions that every holy year involves a process of pilgrimage for people -- whether it be in coming to Rome to celebrate the year or in personal prayer.
Then, quoting from
Luke's Gospel, Francis outlines two steps everyone needs to make on their own pilgrimages.
"The Lord asks us above all not to judge and not to condemn," states the pontiff.
"If anyone wishes to avoid God’s judgment, he should not make himself the judge of his brother or sister."
"Human beings, whenever they judge, look no farther than the surface, whereas the Father looks into
the very depths of the soul," writes Francis.
A jubilee year is a special year called by the church to receive blessing and pardon from God and remission of sins. The Catholic Church has called jubilee years every
25 or 50 years since the year 1300 and has also called special jubilee years from time to time, known as extraordinary jubilee years.
The pope begins Saturday's document by explaining the process of the holy year,
saying that on Dec. 8 he will be opening the special holy door of St. Peter's Basilica to mark the beginning of the jubilee.
Francis states that he hopes that with its opening, the door "will become a Door
of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope."
To emphasize that the special year is just not for those able to come to Rome,
the pontiff says he is going to ask every diocese to identify a similar "Door of Mercy" at a cathedral or other special church to be opened during the year.
"Every Particular Church, therefore, will be directly
involved in living out this Holy Year as an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal," writes the pope.
Francis notes that the holy year will begin on the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second
"With the Council, the Church enterd a new phase of her history," writes Francis. "The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and
women of their time in a more accessible way."
"The walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way," he continues. "It was a
new phase of the same evangelisation that had existed from the beginning."
Among other special initiatives for the holy year, Francis also announces Saturday that during the 2016 season of Lent he will be asking
some priests to serve as special "Missionaries of Mercy."
The pontiff says 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 to the Holy See."
With that authority, the pope states, the priests will be "living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon."
"I ask my brother Bishops to invite and welcome these Missionaries so that they can be, above all, persuasive preachers of mercy," writes Francis.
The pontiff also says he is giving the holy year a motto
taken from Luke's Gospel: "Merciful like the Father."
'God’s justice is his mercy'
Francis spends about two pages in the document addressing the
relationship between mercy and justice, which he says, "are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love."
the Bible's frequent use of the image of God as a judge, Francis says that in many passages, "justice is understood as the full observance of the Law and the behaviour of every good Israelite in conformity with God’s commandments."
But he continues: "Such a vision ... has not infrequently led to legalism by distorting the original meaning of justice and obscuring its profound value."
"To overcome this legalistic perspective,
we need to recall that in Sacred Scripture, justice is conceived essentially as the faithful abandonment of oneself to God’s will," writes the pope.
Quoting Jesus' response to the Pharisees in Matthew's Gospel
-- “Go and learn the meaning of ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’" -- Francis says, "Jesus is bent on revealing the great gift of mercy that searches out sinners and offers them pardon and salvation."
can see why, on the basis of such a liberating vision of mercy as a source of new life, Jesus was rejected by the Pharisees and the other teachers of the law," he continues. "In an attempt to remain faithful to the law, they merely placed burdens on the shoulders
of others and undermined the Father’s mercy."
Meditating then on Paul's letter to the Philippians, Francis states that, "Paul’s understanding of justice changes radically. He now places faith first,
"Salvation comes not through the observance of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, who in his death and resurrection brings salvation together with a mercy that justifies," writes the pope.
"God’s justice now becomes the liberating force for those oppressed by slavery to sin and its consequences," he continues. "God’s justice is his mercy."
that theme by exploring the words of the prophet Hosea, Francis states: "If God limited himself to only justice, he would cease to be God, and would instead be like human beings who ask merely that the law be respected."
"But mere justice is not enough," he writes. "Experience shows that an appeal to justice alone will result in its destruction. This is why God goes beyond justice with his mercy and forgiveness."
'Nothing but love'
Earlier in the document, Francis focuses on Jesus' ministry during his earthly life as a sign of the centrality of mercy in the Christian faith.
Citing St. Thomas Aquinas, Francis says that "God’s mercy, rather than a sign of weakness, is the mark of his omnipotence."
"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," states the pope.
"It is hardly an exaggeration to say that this is a 'visceral' love," he says. "It
gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy."
Francis mentions how the Gospel of Matthew's account of Jesus' passion states that before his death Jesus sung a
hymn that may have been Psalm 136: "For his mercy endures forever."
"While he was instituting the Eucharist as an everlasting memorial of himself and his paschal sacrifice, he symbolically placed this supreme act
of revelation in the light of his mercy," writes Francis.
"Within the very same context of mercy, Jesus entered upon his passion and death, conscious of the great mystery of love that he would consummate on the
cross," he continues.
"Knowing that Jesus himself prayed this psalm makes it even more important for us as Christians, challenging us to take up the refrain in our daily lives by praying these words of praise: 'for
his mercy endures forever.'"
Jesus' person, says Francis, "is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously."
"The relationships he forms with the people who approach him
manifest something entirely unique and unrepeatable," states the pope. "The signs he works, especially in the face of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy."
"Nothing in him is devoid of compassion," he says.
Jesus, Francis says, also reveals God's nature "as that of a Father who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome
rejection with compassion and mercy."
Mentioning the fifth beatitude -- "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" -- the Pope states that is the beatitude "to which we should particularly aspire in
this Holy Year."
Speaking of how God acts with humans, the pope says, "mercy is a key word that indicates God’s action towards us."
"The mercy of God is his loving
concern for each one of us," writes Francis. "He feels responsible; that is, he desires our well being and he 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."
Applying that attribute to the level of the church, Francis states:
"Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life."
"All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world
can be lacking in mercy," writes the pope.
'Opening our hearts'
The pontiff also asks that people live the Holy Year by "opening our hearts to those
living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes modern society itself creates."
"How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today!" exhorts Francis. "How many are the wounds borne by the
flesh of those who have no voice because their cry is muffled and drowned out by the indifference of the rich!"
"Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering
what is new!" he continues. "Let us ward off destructive cynicism!
"Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize
that we are compelled to heed their cry for help!" he exhorts, again.
Francis also says that is his "burning desire" that during the jubilee year people reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, Christian
actions and practices attributed to Jesus' directive in Matthew's Gospel for how his followers should act.
"We cannot escape the Lord’s words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be
judged: whether we have fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and clothed the naked, or spent time with the sick and those in prison," states Francis.
Francis also refers the practice of the mercy jubilee to Judaism and Islam, saying: "There is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church."
The pope notes both
that "the pages of the Old Testament are steeped in mercy" and that Muslims often refer to the creator as "Merciful and Kind."
"I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter
with these religions and with other noble religious traditions," states Francis.
"May it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate
every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination," he asks.
Francis' document proclaiming the holy year, officially known as a bull of induction, was released
by the Vatican in six languages.
During the prayer service Saturday, Francis symbolically gave the bull to the four cardinal archpriests of the Papal Basilicas. He also gave a copy to Cardinal Marc Ouellet,
the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, for distribution to bishops around the world.
The document is signed by Francis with the title "Bishop of Rome, Servant of the Servants of God," and has an invocation
"to all who read this letter grace, mercy, and peace."
Carol Glatz Catholic
News Service | Mar. 26, 2015 VATICAN CITY
God's law is
about love for God and for others, not cold, abstract doctrine, Pope Francis said at a morning Mass.
"It's sad to be a believer without joy and there is no joy when there is no faith, when there
is no hope, when there is no law, but only rules and cold doctrine," he said at the Mass Thursday in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
"The joy of faith, the joy of the Gospel is the touchstone of a person's
faith. Without joy, that person is not a true believer," he said, according to Vatican Radio.
In his homily, the pope pointed to Abraham as a model of faith, hope and joy in God's covenant. But such
joy was absent in the doctors of the law described in the day's Gospel reading; they threw stones at Jesus after he told them how Abraham "rejoiced to see my day."
"These doctors of the law didn't
understand," Pope Francis said. "They didn't understand the joy of the promise; they didn't understand the joy of hope; they didn't understand the joy of the covenant."
The doctors of the law "didn't
know how to rejoice because they had lost the sense of joy that only comes from faith," he said. Not only did they lack faith, "they had lost the law. Because at the heart of the law is love -- love for God and for one's neighbor."
"They only had a system of clear-cut doctrines," he said.
As "men without faith, without law and attached to doctrine," they lived in a world that was "abstract, a
world without love, a world without faith, a world without hope, a world without trust, a world without God. And this is why they could not rejoice," the pope said. "Their hearts had petrified."
asked that people pray for "the grace to be jubilant in the hope" of knowing and encountering Jesus and for the "grace of joy."
Pope Francis began the day's Mass with a prayer to St. Teresa of Avila,
asking for her intercession in the cause for world peace.
After lighting a candle, he prayed that "the fire of God's love may conquer the blaze of war and violence that afflict humanity, and that
dialogue may prevail over armed conflict everywhere."
His prayer was part of a worldwide initiative sponsored by the Order of Discalced Carmelites to get people of all denominations and faiths to
offer an hour of prayer for peace March 26.
The prayer initiative was the order's "birthday gift" to their foundress, St. Teresa, in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of her birth March 28; a
series of celebrations began on her feast day Oct. 15.
St. Teresa of Avila was a 16th-century mystic, co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites and doctor of the church.
Vatican City March 25th 2015
Francis was addressing the synod meetings
Wednesday in his audience as part of a wider reflection, centred on the fact that March 25 is the day celebrated in the Catholic church as the feast of the annunciation -- when Mary is said to have been told by an Angel of God that she would miraculously bear
The story of the annunciation, the pontiff said, "shows us how profoundly the mystery of the incarnation -- as God wanted it -- included not only the conception in the womb of the mother, but also the reception in a real family."
Mentioning also that March 25 marks the publication date of Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which focuses partly on family life, Francis said: "The bond between the church and the family
is sacred and inviolable."
"The church, as a mother, never abandons the family, even when she is disheartened, hurt and defeated in many ways," said the pope. "Even when it falls into sin, or moves away from the Church; it will always do all
to search to cure it and heal it, to invite it to conversion and to reconcile with the Lord."
Francis then said the church needs prayer to fulfill that mission, "prayer full of love for the family and for life" and "prayer that
knows to rejoice with those who rejoice and suffer with those who suffer."
Tying that mission to the synod, the pontiff then asked all Catholics to pray for the upcoming synod using a prayer to the Holy Family that asks partly that families
"never again experience violence" and that "all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing."
The pope invited all to make the prayer for the synod, "even those who feel distant, or that they are no longer
used to doing this."
"I ask you all, please do not miss making your prayer," he said. "This prayer for the synod on the family is for the good of all."
Ash Wednesday – February 18th, 2015
Ash Wednesday makes one’s faith very visible and public. Not offensively — but also not easy to miss — the sign of our faith shows up in the office, at school, on buses
and subways, in lines at the grocery store, or at the gas station. This small symbol of the cross of ashes on our foreheads expresses an important truth: Faith doesn’t happen only at church, but lives among us, in public, every day.
Scripture texts for the liturgy of Ash Wednesday do not only remind us of sin and death; they are a loud call to overcome sin, to be converted to Christ and the Gospel and to prepare for the new life of Easter. I would like to offer some reflections on what
it means to be reconciled to God, to be an “Ambassador for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21), and the meaning of authentic piety and devotion as outlined in Matthew’s Gospel text for today’s liturgy (6:1-6, 16-18). I will conclude with
some thoughts on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s profound 2010 Lenten reflection on God’s justice.
Be reconciled to God!
Today — the liturgy tells us — is the “acceptable time” for our reconciliation
with God. Reconciliation is a gratuitous gift of God. Reconciliation must involve everyone: individuals, families, nations and peoples.
In the passage from 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, Paul encouraged the fractious Corinthian community to recognize
that God has “reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (5:18). Paul speaks of “the new creation in Christ” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) and goes on to tell us: “God in Christ was reconciling
the world to himself, not holding individuals’ faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that we are reconciled. [...] The appeal we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).
we speak of the world as reconciled to God, we are speaking not only of individuals but also of every community: families, communities, clans, tribes, nations and states. In his providence, God made covenant after covenant with the human family: the covenant
with our first parents in the Garden of Eden; the covenant with Noah after the Flood and the covenant with Abraham. In the Book of Joshua we learn about the covenant made with Israel, when Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in the land of Egypt. And God
has now made the final and definitive covenant with all of humanity in Jesus Christ, who reconciled individual men and women — as well as entire nations — to God by his Passion, Death and Resurrection.
In the sacrament of the Eucharist,
we celebrate the mystery of our redemption and full reconciliation with God. It is through his passion, death and resurrection that Jesus has saved the world. Before receiving the body and blood of the Lord, we show that we are at peace with one another. The
Eucharist is celebrated by a reconciled community. When the celebration is ended, we are sent out to spread this peace and message of reconciliation to others.
Mission of high rank
Because we have been entrusted with this
message of reconciliation, we are “ambassadors for Christ” (5:20). The mission that we have been given is one of high rank. It is a mission that ennobles us. Because we have been called to be ambassadors, we have to be true and loyal to the one
we represent. An ambassador is known by his or her credentials. Ambassadors must give credible proof that they have been sent. As ambassadors of Christ we too must give proof of our mission. And the greatest proof is our own fidelity to the Christian way of
If we are reconciled with God, with ourselves and with others, and if we in turn foster Christ’s reconciliation in society, we can make a convincing claim to be ambassadors of the Prince of Peace. Just as God took the initiative
in sending his son to reconcile the world, so he expects us to take the initiative to restore harmony to a broken world and an often-divided Church.
Can we apply this Christian vision, this wonderful mission of reconciliation, to our own situations?
Can we put it into practice among family, friends and community members and try over and over again when we fail? It is very sad when grudges are carried for long periods of time, when people refuse to speak together, when the joy of attending reunions or
celebrations is denied someone, perhaps for a misdemeanor that occurred long ago and whose circumstances are practically forgotten!
Process of self-denial
Matthew’s Gospel (6:1-6, 16-18) issues a warning against doing
good in order to be seen and gives three examples for right living: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In each, the conduct of the hypocrites (6:2) is contrasted with the behavior demanded of the disciples. The sayings about reward found here and elsewhere (Matthew
5:12, 46; 10:41-42) show that this is a genuine element of Christian moral exhortation.
Let us look closely at what the Gospel demands of us in this threefold process of self-denial: we must pray: “Go to your room, close the door, and
pray to your Father in private.” We must fast: “No one must see you are fasting but your Father.” We must give alms: “Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
is nothing ambiguous about what is required of us this season. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the pillars of the Lenten journey for Christians. This is the piety, the devotion and the sincerity that the Lord seeks from us this Lent.
Benedict XVI’s 2010 Lenten message, the Church presents us with the spiritual context of the Lenten Season. This year, the Pope’s message takes up the great theme of justice, beginning from St. Paul’s affirmation:
“The justice of God has been manifested through faith in Jesus Christ” [cf. Romans 3:21-22]. Conversion to Christ gives people the strength to break the bonds of selfishness and work for justice in the world. The Pope’s message is above all
a challenge to our willingness to entrust ourselves to God and to believe in him.
Benedict XVI reminds us that what we need most cannot be guaranteed to us by law. “In order to live life to the full, something more intimate is necessary
that can be granted only as a gift: We could say that man lives by that love which only God can communicate since He created the human person in His image and likeness. Material goods are certainly useful and required — indeed Jesus Himself was concerned
to heal the sick, feed the crowds that followed Him and surely condemns the indifference that even today forces hundreds of millions into death through lack of food, water and medicine — yet ‘distributive’ justice does not render to the human
being the totality of his ‘due’. Just as man needs bread, so does man have even more need of God.”
Benedict XVI says: “Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency
in order to discover and accept one’s own need — the need of others and God, the need of his forgiveness and his friendship.
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Pope Francis said: "That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew.
In a recent interview with a fellow Jesuit,
Pope Francis referred to a painting by the Italian painter Caravaggio. It is a painting of the call of St. Matthew, and the artist beautifully sets the scene of the call in the contrast of light and darkness. On one side is Jesus, in the light with his arm
extended towards a table. Around the table, in a shadowy darkness are some men with some money in the middle. One of the men almost seems to have his hands around the money. Pope Francis said: "That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That's me. I feel like
him. Like Matthew.... It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, 'No, not me! No, this money is mine.' Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if
I would accept my election as pontiff— I am a sinner but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance."
Who are we — we are sinners upon whom the Lord has turned his
gaze! And because we have recognized the Lord in the light we have the call to set the world on fire with the love and mercy of God. And because we have recognized the Lord we can let go of some things we have mightily tried to keep hold of in order to serve
him fully. It might not have been or be a stack of money, but the Christian spiritual journey is a constant path of letting go of jealousies or angers, hatreds or condemnations, prides or lusts in order to live in the freedom of the light. This freedom is
what we bring to the world, and it begins with us humbly acknowledging that we are sinners upon whom the Lord has turned his gaze.
We may need to be reminded of this both as Christian individuals and as citizens of our nation. A Congress
and a President once made the following appeal for a National Day of Prayer:
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth,
and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all
these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the
God that made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."
The words of President Lincoln and the Congress in 1864 may be words we need
to hear today — to acknowledge we are sinners upon whom the Lord has turned his gaze, and to trust in the infinite mercy and goodness of God.
Today, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima is a day on which the Holy Father is consecrating
the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us consecrate ourselves every day — "I am all yours, my Queen, my Mother and all that I have is yours"!
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