A YEAR OF MERCY ENDS, A HOLY DOOR IS CLOSED, THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALS GROWS
This past weekend was jam-packed with important ecclesial moments: the consistory Saturday to create 17 new cardinals, the closing on Sunday of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica and the end of the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy and the signing by Pope Francis’ of his post Jubilee Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera, (“Mercy and Misery”) at the end of Mass.
With the new cardinals, there are now 228 members of the College of Cardinals: 121 cardinal electors, that is, cardinals under the age of 80 who can vote in a future conclave and 107 non electors, those over the age of 80 who, though they may not vote in a conclave could theoretically be elected Pope.
SATURDAY: “A MYSTAGOGY OF MERCY: LOVE, DO GOOD, BLESS AND PRAY”
In his homily at Saturday’s consistory for the creation of new cardinals, Pope Francis told the new Eminences that, “The Gospel passage we have just heard (cf. Lk 6:27-36) is often referred to as the ‘Sermon on the Plain’. After choosing the Twelve, Jesus came down with his disciples to a great multitude of people who were waiting to hear him and to be healed. The call of the Apostles is linked to this ‘setting out’, descending to the plain to encounter the multitudes who, as the Gospel says, were ‘troubled’.
“Instead of keeping the Apostles at the top of the mountain, their being chosen leads them to the heart of the crowd; it sets them in the midst of those who are troubled, on the “plain” of their daily lives. The Lord thus shows the Apostles, and ourselves, that the true heights are reached on the plain, while the plain reminds us that the heights are found in a gaze and above all in a call: ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’.”
The Holy Father explained that, “there are four actions that will shape, embody and make tangible the path of discipleship. We could say that they represent four stages of a mystagogy of mercy: love, do good, bless and pray. I think we can all agree on these, and see them as something reasonable.”
Then he noted that “the problem comes when Jesus tells us for whom we have do these things. Here he is very clear. He minces no words, he uses no euphemisms. He tells us: love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you (cf. vv. 27-28).
“Ours is an age of grave global problems and issues,” continued Francis. “We live at a time in which polarization and exclusion are burgeoning and considered the only way to resolve conflicts. We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant, or a refugee, become a threat, take on the status of an enemy. An enemy because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the color of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith. An enemy because…
“And, without our realizing it, this way of thinking becomes part of the way we live and act. Everything and everyone then begins to savour of animosity. Little by little, our differences turn into symptoms of hostility, threats and violence. How many wounds grow deeper due to this epidemic of animosity and violence, which leaves its mark on the flesh of many of the defenseless, because their voice is weak and silenced by this pathology of indifference! How many situations of uncertainty and suffering are sown by this growing animosity between peoples, between us! Yes, between us, within our communities, our priests, our meetings.
“The virus of polarization and animosity permeates our way of thinking, feeling and acting. We are not immune from this and we need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts, because this would be contrary to the richness and universality of the Church, which is tangibly evident in the College of Cardinals. We come from distant lands; we have different traditions, skin color, languages and social backgrounds; we think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches.”
SUNDAY: A HOLY DOOR OF MERCY IS CLOSED BUT NOT THE HEART OF JESUS
In his homily at Mass on Sunday, Solemnity of Christ the King, after closing the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis said, “even if the Holy Door is closed, the true door of mercy, which is the heart of Christ, always remains open wide for us.” And he explained that the power of Christ the King “is not power as defined by this world, but the love of God, a love capable of encountering and healing all things.”
“In order to receive the kingship of Jesus,” said the Holy Father, “we are called to struggle against this temptation, called to fix our gaze on the Crucified One, to become ever more faithful to him. How many times, even among ourselves, do we seek out the comforts and certainties offered by the world. How many times are we tempted to come down from the Cross. The lure of power and success seem an easy, quick way to spread the Gospel; we soon forget how the Kingdom of God works.
“This Year of Mercy,” he continued, “invites us to rediscover the core, to return to what is essential. This time of mercy calls us to look to the true face of our King, the one that shines out at Easter, and to rediscover the youthful, beautiful face of the Church, the face that is radiant when it is welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means but rich in love, on mission. Mercy, which takes us to the heart of the Gospel, urges us to give up habits and practices which may be obstacles to serving the Kingdom of God; mercy urges us to orient ourselves only in the perennial and humble kingship of Jesus, not in submission to the precarious regalities and changing powers of every age.”
MONDAY: POST JUBILEE APOSTOLIC LETTER, MISERICORDIA ET MISERA.
Pope Francis signed his Post Jubilee Year Apostolic Letter, Misericordia et Misera, at the end of Mass Sunday and it was made public Monday morning, November 21. In this 7,400-word letter the Pope wrote: “In light of the ‘great graces of mercy’ we have received during the Jubilee, our first response is to give thanks to the Lord for His gifts. But in going forward, we must also continue to celebrate mercy, especially in the liturgical celebrations of the Church, including in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and in the other Sacraments, especially in Reconciliation and in Anointing of the Sick, the two ‘sacraments of healing’.”
The breaking news of that document was Pope Francis’ decision to extend indefinitely the permission he gave to priests at the start of the Holy Year of Mercy to absolve those who have committed the sin of abortion, an excommunicable offense.
In the Apostolic Letter he wrote: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life.” And he also said: “There is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled” with God.
Because abortion has always been a very grave sin, punishable by excommunication, the possibility of granting forgiveness always rested under the authority of a bishop. A bishop could hear the woman’s confession himself or delegate that to a priest who had been specifically trained in this area. However, in 2015, Pope Francis had said he was allowing all priests to grant absolution for an abortion for the duration of the Holy Year, which ran from December 8, 2015 through November 20, 2016.
Now, with a view to carrying out Francis’ vision of a merciful Church, priests may, on a permanent basis, absolve the sin of abortion, an act the Pope has called “this agonizing and painful decision.” Francis asked priests “to be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation” for faithful who had abortions.
Here is what he wrote, in part in the Apostolic Letter:
The Sacrament of Reconciliation must regain its central place in the Christian life. This requires priests capable of putting their lives at the service of the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18), in such a way that, while no sincerely repentant sinner is prevented from drawing near to the love of the Father who awaits his return, everyone is afforded the opportunity of experiencing the liberating power of forgiveness.
“A favorable occasion for this could be the 24 Hours for the Lord, a celebration held in proximity to the Fourth Sunday of Lent. This initiative, already in place in many dioceses, has great pastoral value in encouraging a more fervent experience of the sacrament of Confession.
- Given this need, lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year, is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary. I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.
“For the Jubilee Year I had also granted that those faithful who, for various reasons, attend churches officiated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, can validly and licitly receive the sacramental absolution of their sins. For the pastoral benefit of these faithful, and trusting in the good will of their priests to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion in the Catholic Church, I have personally decided to extend this faculty beyond the Jubilee Year, until further provisions are made, lest anyone ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the Church’s pardon.
Pope Francis also invites the Church to Celebrate a World Day of the Poor:
“During the ‘Jubilee for Socially Excluded People’, as the Holy Doors of Mercy were being closed in all the cathedrals and shrines of the world, I had the idea that, as yet another tangible sign of this Extraordinary Holy Year, the entire Church might celebrate, on the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, the World Day of the Poor. This would be the worthiest way to prepare for the celebration of the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy (cf. Mt 25:31-46). It would be a day to help communities and each of the baptized to reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel and that, as long as Lazarus lies at the door of our homes (cf. Lk 16:19-21), there can be no justice or social peace. This Day will also represent a genuine form of new evangelization (cf. Mt 11:5) which can renew the face of the Church as She perseveres in her perennial activity of pastoral conversion and witness to mercy.”
Click here for the complete Apostolic Letter: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco-lettera-ap_20161120_misericordia-et-misera.html