Pope Francis has proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which will begin on the 50th Anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council (December, 8th 1965). That Council started with a solemn statement by Saint Pope John XXIII :“Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity”. After the Council the need for mercy continued to be stressed by particular means, like Popes’ Encyclicals (Rich in Mercy by Saint Pope John Paul II and God is Love by Benedict XVI,) and the spreading of the Devotion to Divine Mercy prompted by the visions and diaries of St Faustina Kowalska.
Pope Francis opens the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica on Tuesday the 8th of December, 2015, the Solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The following Sunday, December 13th, Holy Doors will be opened in all the Catholic dioceses of the world. Special arrangements have also been made for people in prison or in hospitals. Holy Doors will become Doors of Mercy during the whole of the Jubilee Year, which will close on November 20th 20016, the Solemnity of Christ the King.
At this time the world seems very much in need of hearing once again the gospel message of mercy. Often we hear a lot about social justice and of human rights, sometimes overlooking the fact that human justice is never perfect. Our Melanesian customs often seem to pursue mere retributive justice, with continuous court cases, pay back practices, vengeful attitudes and tribal fighting. Pardon and mercy, which are core values in the Gospels, can be easily neglected and forgotten.
The Holy Bible describes mercy as a very special quality of God’s nature. Already in the Old Testament God is described as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34: 6). The New Testament affirms that Jesus came to reveal God’s nature through his words, his deeds, and his very person. “Whoever sees me, sees the Father” Jesus said (Jn 14: 9). Jesus certainly proclaims God’s mercy in his marvellous parables of mercy (cf. Lk 15: 1-32), in his attitudes towards sinners and towards people in all kinds of need, and ultimately in the shedding of his blood for the forgiveness of human sins. Jesus also called upon all his disciples to show mercy just like their Father in Heaven: “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6: 27). Mary, the mother of Jesus, is also an example of a merciful woman. By her saying “yes” to God’s plan, she enabled the salvation of the world.
According to Pope Francis, the Jubilee Year of Mercy should be a time in which all Catholics might grow stronger and more effective in their witness to mercy, starting from church leaders and extending to all church members. Bishops and pastors, in following the example of the forgiving father in the parable of the prodigal son, are called to show mercy in all their pastoral activity and especially in the sacrament of reconciliation. The simplified procedures regarding the annulment of those marriages that lack the important requirements for validity, might help church leaders to reconcile those faithful who have experienced broken marriages. Bishops, pastors and church leaders are also called to explain to the faithful how they can participate fruitfully in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
During this Holy Year, we are first of all invited to reflect on God’s mercy as communicated in the Bible, and to pray to God to pour out his mercy upon the entire universe and all humanity. We are then invited to experience God’s mercy through the practice of pilgrimage to the Holy Doors, the reception of the sacraments of reconciliation and Holy Communion, and the receiving of indulgences in order to be freed, through the blessings of the communion of saints, from the negative consequences of our sins. Catholics involved in corrupt practices or addicted to sinful habits like alcohol, gambling, pornography, polygamy, abuse of sex and drugs, etc., are called to repentance and conversion in order to abandon those ways of life which bring tremendous damage to the society, to the church, to their families, their communities, and to their own lives.
Most of all, we are all invited to acquire an attitude of mercy in our lifestyle, to refrain from judging and condemning others, to pardon those who did wrong to us, to practice not only the 14 corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, preserved in our church tradition, but also the new acts of mercy required by modern situations of need experienced in the world and particularly in our own countries. We may think of situations of poverty and distress caused by the present severe drought; of unjust discrimination and persecution suffered by those accused of sorcery or living with HIV and AIDS; of people displaced by climate change or tribal fighting; of refugees and immigrants; of disabled children; of families abandoned by their fathers; of women and children subjected to domestic violence; of street children and unemployed young people, etc. We may show mercy also by taking good care of God’s creation under threat from human greed and carelessness as never before in our countries.
Pope Francis reminds us that “no one can be excluded from the mercy of God ... and the Church is the house that welcomes all and refuses no one. Its door remain wide open, so that those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness. The greater the sin, so much the greater must be the love that the Church expresses toward those who convert”.
Dear Catholic faithful let us make of this Jubilee Year of Mercy an extraordinary moment of grace and renewal, so that our Church may become more and more the living sign of the Father’s mercy in our two countries.
Your Bishops of PNG/SI
10th November 2015