The Importance of Mercy
In the early days of his pontificate, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of mercy. In one of his speeches to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square, the new Pope spoke about the writings of one of a any pope's collaborators, one of the Cardinals. Specifically the Pope mentioned that he had recently read a book written by Cardinal Walter Kasper -- Mercy: the Essence of the Gospel and Key to Christian Life. The following thoughts are taken from an interview the Cardinal granted to a Canadian Catholic news service, Salt & Light. Because the Cardinal's message is so important, I wish to share one of his insights. He proposed a very simple, yet powerful message concerning one of the problems the current Synod of Bishops (and a group of the laity invited to participate in the dialog) concerning the family.
Why so much concern about mercy? We must realize that mercy is central to holy scripture. It is a fundamental of the preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis and others are speaking about mercy because in our times there is so much misery that impacts the life of the family. Economic troubles, immigration, physical torture and murders and many other issues make life very difficult for families around the world.
Just a few days before the recent conclave got under way, Cardinal Kasper presented then Cardinal Broglio a copy of his book on mercy. Kasper recalls Broglio's immediate response to the gift: "Mercy is the name of our God." In his interview last week, Kaspar said that the Church needs to give all families a message of hope. The Church needs to help families, young and old, achieve happiness.
An interesting reply by Cardinal Kasper to the question presented by the interviewer inquiring if he has seen any changes in Pope Francis since his election as Pope. Striking to this hearer was the reply. "... he has become younger.... Old men can be wise and they can also grow younger!"
The Cardinal said what the Pope said to the Synod participants on the first day of their meeting: there must be real communication that is not so boring and formal! Pope Francis seems to have no fear in addressing the participants about what has always been a typical Roman style in such gatherings. Likewise Cardinal Kasper noted that the participant must realize that the clergy had to realize that they had to listen to the messages brought by family through the participating laity and bishops who are presenting descriptions of the miseries in their home diocese. There are so many serious pastoral needs families have today that need to be honestly and opening addressed by the Synod participants. Kasper was to the point: the Synod needs to make "an honest assessment of reality." He then turned his attention to the issue of the doctrinal directive prohibiting men and women in "irregular" marriage situations, e.g marriages not witnessed by the Church, etc. Around the world about 50% of Roman Catholics are in such situations, he noted. To prevent the heads of such families from receiving Holy Communion impacts not only the married couple but their children as well. The cardinal sees an entire generation of Catholics having no interest in receiving communion. As he said, the Church has to take people where they are and walk with them. The leaders of our Church must have an understanding of the people of God and where they are today. The leaders must not be guided by fear, he said. He cites what he calls "doctrinal fears". That is a fear of adapting doctrine to the complex situations of human life. The Church must be pastoral! There can be no situation in human life where the Church does not help the married couple resolve their difficulties.
Let me close with this encouragement: follow what is happening in Rome during the days of the Synod. Again, I have turned to the pages of Jesuit Creighton University's Daily Reflection. There the editors have establish a link to the Synod. It is worthy of whatever time you can give to the various points that are developing in Rome. Especially in this year when we are making ready for the international gathering to be conducted in Philadelphia next September to celebrate the Family.
It is my hope and prayer that what I have shared with you today will stimulate an interest in furthering your understanding of the Synod and the historic significance of this event. Likewise I encourage a visit to Global Pulse which is an up to date Catholic news service containing exquisite articles and insights into a Catholic perspective of world events.
Oremus pro invicem et participatores Synodi (Let us pray for each other and the participants at the Synod.)