The apostolic letter “Misericordia et misera”, signed Sunday in the churchyard of St. Peter by Pope Francis at the end of the Mass celebrated to conclude the ‘Extraordinary Holy year, contains important new practices for the life of the Church and individual Christians. “Mercy, in fact – writes the Holy Father in the first point of the letter – can’t be a parenthesis in the Church’s life, but it is its own existence, which makes evident and tangible the deep truth of the Gospel. Everything is revealed in the mercy; everything is resolved in the merciful love of the Father “. Mons. Fisichella explained, “the letter is founded on two pillars: they are the fact that the mercy needs to be celebrated and lived.”
The first consequence is that the Pope has decided to extend “until further notice” the service of about a thousand missionaries of mercy “as a concrete sign that the grace of the Jubilee continues to be, in the various parts of the world, living and active”. Their mandate, which would expire with the end of the Holy Year, allows the absolution of the most serious sins too reserved to the Apostolic See.
The second act of mercy concerns the absolution of abortion sin (not just mothers but also of those who collaborated or pushed a woman to abort): “Because no obstacles stand between the request for reconciliation and forgiveness of God, I grant from now on to all the priests, under their ministry, the power to absolve those who have procured abortion sin. “ A concession that had been planned for the Jubilee period and now the Pope makes it permanent: you no longer need, for penitents, contact your bishop. Francis, however, was very clear: “I would like to reaffirm with all my strength that abortion is a serious sin, because it puts end to an innocent life. With equal force, however, I can and I must say that there is no sin that God’s mercy can not reach and destroy when he finds a repentant heart that asks to be reconciled with the Father. So every priest, therefore, must be a guide, a support and comfort in accompanying penitents on this journey of a special reconciliation. ” “There is no laxity” said Fisichella.
The third specific aspect is “an helping hand, offer” towards the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X. The Pope has decided to extend, in this case, a decision taken at the beginning of the Jubilee: to consider valid the confession of the faithful with the Lefebvrians priests. “For the pastoral good of these faithful – said the Pope – and trusting in the goodwill of their priests to recoup, with the help of God, full communion in the Catholic Church, I establish to extend this faculty beyond the Jubilee period, until further notice “.
All these issues relate an essential pillar of mercy: the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Pope dedicated the entire first part of the letter to this subject. For example, talking about the family crisis, he confirms, in the line of “Amoris Laetitia”, that “anyone who, without exception, in every situation, can actually feel welcomed by God, actively participate in the life of the community and be added to the People God who tirelessly walks towards the fullness of God’s kingdom “. But before he renewed the invitation to priests “to get ready with great care to the ministry of Confession, which is a true priestly mission,” and he asks “to be friendly with everyone; witnesses of paternal tenderness despite the sin gravity; quick in helping to reflect on the evil committed; clear in presenting the moral principles; available to accompany the faithful in the penitential path; foresight in the discernment of each case; generous in dispensing God’s forgiveness. ” An authentic catechesis on the sacrament that during the Jubilee, in the words of mons. Fisichella, has seen “in some areas an increase of congessions up to 30%”.
The letter contains also two concrete information. The first concerns “listening to the God’s word. The Pope suggests that every community, in a sunday of liturgical year, renewals “commitment to the diffusion, knowledge and exploration of Sacred Scripture: a Sunday dedicated entirely to the God’s Word, to understand the inexhaustible wealth that it comes from that constant dialogue between God and his people. It leaves open the creativity of the individual dioceses about how implement this suggestion. Finally, with the closing of Mercy year we have entered into “time of Mercy,” which “renews and redeems”. But there is also a “social” aspect to be rediscovered and appreciated, giving creative approach to find new ways to realize works of mercy because our time really need it. This is why the Pope has decided to establish the Poor World Day as a task for the whole Church to “reflect on how poverty is the basis of the Gospel and that, until Lazarus lying at the door of our house, can’t be justice or social peace. ”
In the letter there is also a reference to “Mercy Friday“, a tangible sign of the way in which the Pope wanted to live this Year by example in the rolling up his sleeves. So many touching moments. But Mons. Fisichella has given two of those “more engaging.” The first was in August, when the Pope went to find twenty girls victims of trafficking. “The skin still get goose to me – he said – The Pope wanted to hear the story of each of them, a history of torture, of deception, of torment, resolved with a history of liberation thanks to the volunteers of Don Oreste Benzi’s Community, Pope John XXIII. The Pope, said,while we walked back to Casa Santa Marta, was greatly impressed by the dramatic stories of those young girls”.
The other visit marked by “deep tenderness was to the neonatal unit of St. John.” Mons. Fisichella told a story about that visit: “Nobody knew anything, as in other cases, because they were private, they were not organized before. I arrived twenty minutes earlier. The doctor who welcomed me knew me because I had been there before Christmas, as the work was carried out by the Region with funds from the Jubilee. She asked me why I was back there and when I said that the Pope was coming she asked me if I was joking, then she whitened… “. A few minutes later “the Holy Father arrived. He wore green shirts, shoe covers ..I saw him wipe the tears of a mother who had just witnessed the death of one of her triplets and she feared for the other two, then his surprise at newlyweds who invited him to take in his arms their creature just pulled outside the incubator. “I do not know if I can,” said the Pope: he was afraid to hurt him! It was a tearjerker tenderness”.
“The Church – the Pope writes in” Mercy et miserable ” needs to recount today” many other signs “that Jesus did and that” were not written “so that they are an eloquent expression of the fruitfulness of Christ’s love and the community living for Him. It has been passed more than two thousand years, but the works of mercy continue to make visible the goodness of God. ” Pope Francis wanted to indicate through his acts the way to follow.