Vatican Round-up

A calendar of mercy

The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation has published a full schedule of events for the coming Jubilee Year of Mercy, beginning with the opening of the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Over a dozen individual celebrations are scheduled for the year, giving pilgrims the chance to celebrate their own holy year with Pope Francis in Rome – or in Krakow, Poland, for those young people attending World Youth Day. Among these celebrations will be jubilee days for consecrated men and women, deacons, priests, catechists, the sick and disabled, teenagers and prisoners.

The council says the year’s motto, ‘Merciful Like the Father’, is an invitation to follow God’s merciful example, forgiving and loving rather than judging or condemning. Pope Francis wants to show the Church’s “maternal solicitude” by sending out “missionaries of mercy” – priests who will preach and teach about God's mercy, bearing special authority “to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See”.

Bishops and priests around the world are being asked to conduct “similar symbolic gestures of communion with Pope Francis” by reaching out to those on the margins.


Speaking with maternal concern

The Jubilee Year of Mercy is bound to influence the work of the upcoming synod of bishops on the family, according to a former papal theologian, who says the Church must develop better ways to accompany people in their family lives.

Interviewed in the Jesuit Journal La Civilta Cattolica, Cardinal Georges Cottier, who served as papal theologian from 1989 to 2005, cautioned against overly strict approaches to pastoral care, saying “In rigourism, there is an innate brutality that is contrary to the delicacy with which God guides each person”.

Observing that sometimes people feel rejected by the Church because of “a negative judgment issued in an impersonal and soulless way”, the cardinal said that although clergy must uphold Church teaching, “this must be presented and explained in a language that clearly transmits the maternal concern of the church”.

The cardinal explained that “through the voice of its pastors the Church always must demonstrate that it is guided by the requirements of divine mercy”.


Celebrating changing times

Pope St John Paul II “changed the course of history in a way, understanding the importance of gestures, communication and the transmission of messages in a simple and effective way”, according to the chief rabbi of Rome.

A banner in St Peter’s Square showing the late pope with the late Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff was, Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni said, “a sign of how times have changed”.

The rabbi was speaking at the launch of ‘A Blessing to One Another: John Paul II and the Jewish People’, an exhibition first displayed in 2005 at Cincinnati's Xavier University and since shown in 17 other American cities.

One of the exhibition’s iconic images shows the late pope placing a written prayer in a crevice between the stones of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, something since done by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to write their own prayers and slip them into a replica wall; the prayers will then be taken to Jerusalem to be placed in the real wall.

The exhibition will be on display without an admission charge at the Vatican's Braccio di Carlo Magno hall until September 16.