Pope asks for new Catholic institutions of mercy, charity

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis asked Catholic dioceses
around the world to set up a permanent memorial of the Year of Mercy by
establishing a hospital, home for the aged or school in an under-served area.

Celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday with an evening prayer vigil
April 2 and a morning Mass April 3, the pope said the idea came to him during a
meeting with a charitable organization and he decided to mention it at the
vigil with participants of the European gathering of the World Apostolic
Congress of Mercy and followers of the Divine Mercy devotion.

“As a reminder, a ‘monument’ let’s say, to this Year of
Mercy, how beautiful it would be if in every diocese there were a structural
work of mercy: a hospital, a home for the aged or abandoned children, a school
where there isn’t one, a home for recovering drug addicts — so many things
could be done,” the pope said.

“Let’s think about it and speak with the bishops,”
the pope told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the
Divine Mercy chaplet of St. Faustina Kowalska, and also to remember St. John
Paul II, who promoted the devotion and died April 2, 2005.

Reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer at the end of
Mass the next day, Pope Francis said the Divine Mercy Sunday celebration was
“like the heart of the Year of Mercy,” and he announced that Catholic
parishes throughout Europe would be asked to take up a special collection April
24 as a sign of closeness and solidarity with people suffering because of the
war in Eastern Ukraine.

The war has caused thousands of deaths and forced more than
1 million people to flee their homes, he said. Pope Francis prayed that the
collection, a sign of solidarity and closeness, “could help, without
further delay, promote peace and respect for the law in that harshly tried

The more one receives mercy, Pope Francis said at the vigil
April 2, “the more we are called to share it with others; it cannot be
kept hidden or kept only for ourselves.”

God’s mercy should drive people to love others, “recognizing
the face of Jesus Christ above all in those who are most distant, weak, alone,
confused and marginalized,” he said.

“It pains the heart” when people talk about
refugees and say, “Let’s throw them out,” or speak about the poor and
say, “Let them sleep on the street,” the pope said. “Is this of

Reflecting on the Gospel account of Thomas, who came to
faith in the risen Lord when he was able to put his hands in Jesus’ wounds,
Pope Francis said, “a faith incapable of entering the wounds of the Lord
is not faith. A faith unable to be merciful as a sign of the merciful wounds of
the Lord, is not faith. It’s an idea, an ideology.”

“If we want truly want to believe and have faith,”
he said, “we must draw near and touch those wounds, caress those wounds,
but also lower our heads and let others touch our wounds.”

Celebrating the Divine Mercy Sunday Mass the next morning, Pope
Francis said the Gospel story of God’s mercy “remains an open book”
to which people can add good news by being heralds of the Gospel and engaging
in works of mercy, “which are the hallmarks of the Christian life.”

Just as the disciples were afraid but nevertheless set out
as the risen Lord commanded, he said, many times Christians today experience
“an interior struggle between a closed heart and the call of love to open
doors closed by sin.”

“Christ, who for love entered through doors barred by
sin, death and the powers of hell, wants to enter into each one of us to break
open the locked doors of our hearts,” the pope said. Where people are
wounded, fearful and uncertain, Christians are called to reach out with Jesus’
peace, mercy and healing power.

“In Christ, we are born to be instruments of
reconciliation, to bring the Father’s forgiveness to everyone, to reveal his
loving face through concrete gestures of mercy,” Pope Francis said. “Truly,
God’s mercy is forever; it never ends, it never runs out, it never gives up
when faced with closed doors, and it never tires.”

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Follow Wooden on Twitter @Cindy_Wooden.

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