Pope: Reflections on mercy may be over, but compassion must live on

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Year of Mercy and its series of
papal reflections may be over, but compassion and acts of mercy must continue
and become a part of everyone’s daily lives, Pope Francis said.

“Let us commit ourselves to praying for each other
so that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy increasingly become our way
of life,” he said Nov. 30 during his general audience in the Vatican’s
Paul VI hall.

Because the day also marked the feast of St. Andrew,
brother of St. Peter and founder of the church in Constantinople, Pope Francis
gave special greetings to his “dear brother,” Ecumenical
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome and successor of Peter,
said he was sending “a big embrace” to the patriarch and “this
cousin church.”

The Vatican released a letter from the pope to the
patriarch, which praised the way Catholics and Orthodox have begun “to
recognize one another as brothers and sisters and to value each other’s gifts,
and together have proclaimed the Gospel, served humanity and the cause of
peace, promoted the dignity of the human being and the inestimable value of the
family, and cared for those most in need, as well as creation, our common

In his main audience talk, the pope ended his yearlong
series of talks on mercy with a reflection on the corporal work of burying the
dead and the spiritual works of praying for the living and dead.

Catholics particularly remember the faithful departed
during the month of November, he said. Praying for those who have died “is
a sign of recognition for the witness they have left us and the good they have
done. It is a giving thanks to the Lord for having given them to us and for
their love and friendship.”

By entrusting their souls to God’s mercy, “we pray
with Christian hope that they are with him in heaven,” he said.

While for many burying the dead is an expected,
straightforward ritual, there are some parts of the world where this may not be
a given, such as places experiencing “the scourge of war, with bombings
day and night that sow fear and innocent victims,” he said.

“Even today, there are those who risk their life to
bury poor victims of war,” he added, thanking those particularly in Syria
and the Middle East for their courage in recovering the dead and going to
rescue the injured.

Praying for the living, he said, can be done in many ways, such as: blessing one’s children every morning and evening; visiting and
praying for the sick; praying silently, “sometimes in tears,” for
help during difficult times; even thanking God for the blessings bestowed upon
one’s family, friends and co-workers.

The important thing, he said, is to always have one’s
heart open to the Holy Spirit, “who knows our deepest desires and
hopes,” and can “purify and bring them to fulfillment.”

“We always ask that God’s will be done for ourselves
and for others, like in the Lord’s Prayer, because his will is definitely the
greatest good, the goodness of a father who never abandons us,” he said.

After his main talk, the pope also made an appeal for
World AIDS Day Dec. 1, urging “everyone to adopt responsible behavior to
prevent the further spread of this disease.”

The Catholic Church promotes sexual abstinence before
marriage and monogamy within marriage as the best ways to limit HIV
transmission, and holds that condom-distribution campaigns aggravate the

In his appeal, Pope Francis called for prayers for those
affected by HIV/AIDS and for renewed efforts in getting adequate testing and
therapy to the poorest in the world. He said the United Nations estimates only
half of those living with HIV/AIDS have access to lifesaving treatment.

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