Though the special Jubilee Year of Mercy has ended, Pope Francis has stressed that the “door of mercy of our heart continues to remain wide open.”
Marking the conclusion of the special year, Pope Francis has issued a new apostolic letter, ‘Misericordia et misera’ (‘Mercy and Misery’), a reference to the encounter between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery in chapter 8 of the Gospel of St John.
In his letter, Pope Francis said the teaching of this Gospel “serves not only to throw light on the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, but also to point out the path that we are called to follow in the future.”
The jubilee year, which was the first such year since the great jubilee of the year 2000, began on 8 December 2015, the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, and concluded on 20 November, the Solemnity of Christ the King.
In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis called on the faithful to continue to practise new works of mercy, and to find new ways to give expression to the traditional works.
The corporal and spiritual works of mercy, he said, “continue in our own day to be proof of mercy’s immense positive influence as a social value.”
He also stressed that the Church must continue to be vigilant and offer solidarity in the face of attacks on human dignity.
He suggested a number of ideas to continue the celebration of mercy, including an annual day dedicated to making the Scriptures better known and more widely diffused.
He called on the faithful to restore the Sacrament of Reconciliation to a “central place in Christian life.”
Pope Francis also extended a number of initiatives already begun in the Holy Year, asking the Missionaries of Mercy to continue their ministry, and extending indefinitely the faculties of priests of the Society of St Pius X to hear confessions and grant absolution.
He extended the faculties of all priests to absolve the sin of procured abortion.
“I want to insist as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin,” he said, “because it puts an end to an innocent life.”
But, he continued, “I can and I 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.”
“This is the time of mercy,” the Pope concluded. “It is the time of mercy because no sinner can ever tire of asking forgiveness, and all can feel the welcoming embrace of the Father.”
As a final initiative for the future, Pope Francis asked the whole Church to celebrate, on the second to last Sunday of the liturgical year, the World Day of the Poor.
This day, he said, “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.”
For full text of ‘Misericordia et misera’ (‘Mercy and Misery’), click here.