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Pope Francis proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning on December 8, 2015.Pope Francis proclaimed a Year of Mercy beginning on December 8, 2015, which is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This special year began on this day because “…the liturgical feast day recalls God’s action from the very beginning of the history of mankind…” The Jubilee of Mercy will close on the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 20, 2016.

In his Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis said that he will send out missionaries of mercy.1 Who are the missionaries of mercy? They are priests who are skilled confessors and preachers. These missionaries have the task of bringing people back from slavery to sin into the one flock of Jesus Christ, Shepherd and King of the Universe.

All priests, however, must take the time to listen to the cries of the people who want to come back home and receive the mercy of God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They are called to be heralds of mercy and forgiveness so people can see the wonder of God’s love. May no one be indifferent to the call to experience mercy.2

People who are willing to come home to the Church for forgiveness will taste the love of God, including indulgences. People who ask for God’s mercy with a contrite heart will be freed, in full or in part, from the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. By the death and resurrection of Christ, God shows His mercy to those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of the World.3 We should celebrate the jubilee of mercy with joy!

In the recent past, Pope Saint John Paul II proclaimed a year of mercy on the First Sunday of Advent, November 30, 1980, Dives in Misericordia (God who is rich in Mercy). John Paul II tried to promote reconciliation between the East and the West and to end the Cold War.

Now Pope Francis wants reconciliation and relationship with the people who are marginalized, oppressed, and poor. Poverty is not just economic. There are educational, social, and moral types of poverty.

The New Image of the Church of Mercy

Pope Francis has drawn from Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation promulgated by Blessed Pope Paul VI. Jesus of Nazareth, by His words, His actions, and His entire person, reveals the mercy of God. This idea about God’s mercy is similar to the writings of Pope Saint John Paul II. Jesus Christ is the splendor of the Father. (John 14:9) 

Adam fell and sinned against the love of God. Our Heavenly Father, however, is always inviting us to work with Him and to build up His Kingdom. Jesus has shown us the mercy of God – in word, action, and deed – through the mystery of His death and resurrection, which saved us from our sins by His own blood. In his writings, Saint John the Apostle explains that God is love (1 John 4:7-21)4 because He so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16-21).5

In Psalm 136, we see the history of God’s revelation. Pope Francis sees this dimension of salvation when we celebrate God’s mercy in the liturgy of the Church because “His mercy endures forever.” When Jesus and His disciples went out to the Mount of Olives, they sang and spoke of mercy. (Matthew 26)

Pope Francis has placed a special emphasis on the poor, the oppressed, and marginalized.6 The Church, as the mystical body of Christ, is a tangible symbol of the love and mercy of God. The Church is an institution, but it is also a community. Jesus is a liberator to people who are living in the shadow of death. Through the Church, everyone should see the light and redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ, who wants to lead sinners back safely into His Kingdom.

The Church of Mercy

After he was elected to the papacy, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J. chose the name Pope Francis. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, he wants to humbly bring peace, justice, and love to the people of our day and renew the Church. As a cardinal, he was already doing this as he worked with the poor people of Buenos Aires in Argentina. Pope Francis said that all of us are called to be both missionaries and disciples in his apostolic letter, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium). 7

The Church has one mission, which is to evangelize – to bring people into one communion with Jesus Christ.8 The mission of the Church has always been to share our faith in Jesus Christ who is “the source of authentic personal fulfillment.” Everyone must participate in this mission. So why do we need a New Evangelization? The reason is because people are living in a new worldview where God is not a priority. We need to promote the dignity of the Catholic Faith to people in a postmodern world of skepticism. 9

For example, regarding homosexuality, Pope Francis once said, “Who am I to judge?” He opens the door of salvation to those who are hoping to come back into the Church. He welcomes them, even though the Church cannot embrace any immoral lifestyle or a redefinition of marriage against the Word of God. Yet, they can come and dawn near to Jesus. One day, they may repent and convert. Is it possible for the Church to be grounded in the Truth and welcoming at the same time? Yes, absolutely!

Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ, and he has the authority to act on behalf of Jesus. Even though he is the pope, in humility he lets Christ judge and rule the world. In this way, he does not hinder the Holy Spirit who works through the Church and sinners for the salvation of all. The doors of mercy are open!

The Lateran Basilica in Rome, the mother church of our faith, is open to the public as many pilgrims will make their way there in this year of mercy. The cathedral in every diocese has a designated holy door for pilgrims to enter and receive indulgences, under the usual conditions, just as if they were pilgrims to the Eternal City passing through Saint Peter’s holy door.

Priests are encouraged to give more time for Confession to welcome the sinner into the Church. They are the missionaries of mercy who are facilitators of divinity encountering humanity, sources of liberation, and avenues for overcoming obstacles so the new life of baptism can blossom again. Everyone is invited to embrace the mission and call to mercy.

Also, Pope Francis amended the procedure of marriage annulments, hoping that people in difficult situations can experience a process that is deliberate without being burdensome.


First, let us open our hearts to the salvation and mercy of Jesus Christ and share this joy with others. Second -- since we are called by the Sacraments of Initiation to become priests, prophets and kings -- it is our mission and vocation to embrace a life of love and mercy. Third, actively practice the virtue of forgiveness. If we do, the Holy Spirit will work miracles through us and make us holy in the process. Lord, have mercy! +JMJ+

[Written by Father Eka Yuantoro, M.S.F.]

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1 Pope Francis, Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Rome, Italy, April 11, 2015, no. 18.

2 Ibid, no. 19.

3 Ibid, no. 22.

4 Ibid, no. 8.

5 Bruce Vawter, C.M. explained that Johannine Theology focuses on the love of God and divine compassion so we shall ever have the gift of eternal life (from: Brown, Raymond E., The Jerome Biblical Commentary, in the part of the New Testament, page 430).

6 Sobrino, Jon, No Salvation Outside the Poor: Prophetic Utopian Essays, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York. He explains a concept of the crucified people living in suffering and injustice. Ellacuria, his friend who was murdered with seven Jesuits in El Salvador, used the term crucified people in comparison with the suffering servant in the Book of Isaiah. Jurgen Moltmann used term “the Crucified God.”

7 Sri, Edward, Rediscovering the Heart of a Disciple, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Huntington, Indiana, 2014, pages 20-21. Edward Sri explains the subtitle, Missionary Disciples, based on the apostolic letter from Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel.  Sri said that The Joy of the Gospel is about recovering the heart of discipleship, or in the words of Pope Francis, rediscovering how to be missionary disciples.

8 Ibid, pages 27-28.

9 Ibid, pages 28-31. Edward Sri explains that, in the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the new evangelization consists of re-proposing the Gospel to people in regions of secularization. Frank Mercadante, in Engaging a New Generation, explains that this is an opportunity to promote the Good News to teenagers in the postmodern era. Daniel G. Groody calls this a challenge to promote a new evangelization within globalization and an opportunity to share the justice and peace of Christ Jesus.