As you will read below, Pope Francis celebrated Mass early this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Altar of the Chair for the world’s Capuchin community. Later this afternoon – as I write – the Holy Father will receive in audience the priests whom he has named Missionaries of Mercy. I’m thrilled to know a number of these missionaries, including EWTN’s own Fr. John Paul! A profile of these missionaries is on the offical Vatican Jubilee site, and I present that as well today (see second story).

I was delighted this morning to read that a longtime friend of mine in the Roman Curia, Msgr. Peter Wells, was named today by Pope Francis as the Holy See’s new Apostolic Nuncio, or ambassador, in South Africa and Botswana.  Peter is currently Assessor for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, The Holy Father elevated Msgr. Wells to the titular see of Marcianopolis, with the dignity of archbishop (an apostolic nuncio is always an archbishop). The Tulsa, Oklahoma native and archbishop-designate entered the Holy See diplomatic service in July 1999 and was named Assessor at the Secretariat of State in 2009.

May the Lord bless you abundantly in your new ministry, Peter!

May God sit on your shoulder!


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis was the principal celebrant at a Mass offered for the worldwide Capuchin community on Tuesday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass was offered in connection with the presence in Rome and at St. Peter’s of the relics of two great Capuchin saints, who were renowned in their earthly lives as priest-confessors: St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold of Mandic. (photo Reuters / news.va)


“I speak to you as a brother,” said Francis, “and through you I would like to speak to all confessors, especially in the Year of Mercy: The confessional is for pardon – and [even] if you cannot give absolution – let me say hypothetically – please, do not beat up on the penitent; one who comes [to the confessional], comes seeking comfort, pardon, peace in his soul; let him find a father who embraces him and says, ‘God loves you,’ and makes the penitent feel that God really does.”

The Holy Father went on to express a desire to see confessors everywhere with broad minds and open hearts, who never tire of being vehicles of divine pardon, and who understand the suffering of penitents because they know themselves to be sinners and the first to be in need of God’s saving mercy.

“Either you perform the office of Jesus, who forgives, giving His [whole] life in prayer – so many hours there [in the confessional], seated as were those two, “ said the Pope, pointing to the remains of Sts. Padre Pio and Leopold Mandic, “or, you perform the office of the devil who condemns, who accuses – I do not know – I can tell you nothing else.”

(JFL – A NOTE ON THE CAPUCHINS, one of three branches of the Franciscan order:

The Order of Friars Minor, the parent stem, if you will, was founded by St. Francis in 1209. They generally wear a chestnut brown habit.

The Friars Minor Conventuals: Since 1517 Conventuals has been used to designate that branch of the Franciscans that has accepted certain dispensations from the substantial observance of the rule in regard to poverty.  The name “Conventual” was first given to the religious residing in convents. Conventuals have worn black but are returning to gray

Friars Minor Capuchins are also from the 16th century reform of the Franciscan Order founded by Saint Francis. The Capuchin reform started when a group of friars wanted to live a more radical life of prayer and contemplation. Capuchins are missionaries and hard workers in the Lord’s vineyard, but Capuchins are also a contemplative Order and it is a Capuchin’s duty and identity to spend significant time alone in silence with God. The word “Capuchin” apparently came from the Italian word for “hood.” The first Capuchins were mocked for their long pointed hoods, being called “Scappuccini”; eventually, it became “Cappuccini,” which was “Capucin” in French and came into English as “Capuchin.” They are called Grayfriars in Britain. They wear brown or gray.)


On Ash Wednesday, the Missionaries of Mercy will be sent forth by Pope Francis during a celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica. The figure of the Missionary is described in the (Holy Year’s) Bull of Indication Misericordiae Vultus, number 18. The Jubilee website notes the following:



The Missionaries are to be:

  1. a living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness;
  2. facilitators for all, with no one excluded, of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again;
  3. guided by the words, “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all;
  4. inspiring preachers of Mercy;
  5. heralds of the joy of forgiveness;
  6. welcoming, loving, and compassionate Confessors, who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person.


The Missionaries will be invited by individual Diocesan Bishops within their particular country to give missions or facilitate specific initiatives organized for the Jubilee, with a particular attention given to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Holy Father will grant these Missionaries the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.

Letter from the Bishop

Every Missionary must have a letter of recommendation from his local Ordinary or Religious Superior which testifies to the suitability of the priest for this particular mission.

Candidacy for the Missionaries of Mercy closed November 2015.

Since the number of Missionaries of Mercy who have been accepted – who will come to Rome next Ash Wednesday to receive the special mandate from the Holy Father for their mission of preaching and confessions – has already greatly surpassed the hoped-for number, on November 25, 2015 the application process was closed.

The Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization extends heartfelt thanks to all the priests who offered themselves for this service, including all those whose desire must desire remain only in their hearts.  To these latter in particular comes the encouragement to work as witnesses of Mercy in their own daily missions, in the parishes, institutes, and other communities where they offer their service with love.