In April, Perth WYD officer Matt Hodgson attended the World Apostolic Congress On Mercy, took copious notes and photos and reported back to The Record.
Here are the fruits of his labours.
By Anthony Barich
When Pope John Paul II died at 9.37pm Rome time on April 2, 2005, severely debilitated by Parkinson’s disease, God’s Divine Mercy was likely at the forefront of his mind.
On March 27, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI revealed that JPII left a hand-written message that the present pontiff described as a “like a last will and testament” that said: To humanity, which at times seems to be lost and dominated by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the risen Lord offers the gift of His love that pardons, reconciles and opens the soul to hope. It is love that converts hearts and brings peace… How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy.”
The recognition of Divine Mercy is, as JPII saw it, a much-needed response to the great challenges of our time.
JPII died during vespers in preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday the following day, just after his private secretary of nearly 40 years, Polish Fr Stanislaw Dziwisz, celebrated Divine Mercy Mass by his bedside.
He had administered the Anointing of the Sick to the dying Pope just two days prior.
John Paul II admitted in 1997 that “the message of Divine Mercy has shaped my pontificate”, according to Cardinal Christoph SchÅnborn.
St Maria Faustina Kowalska brought Divine Mercy into prominence after being called by the suffering Christ in visions to promote it to the world.
Cardinal SchÅnborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, opened the first lecture at the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, which he chaired, by telling this very personal story of the late Pope who used to visit the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki, Poland while walking to work in wooden shoes at the Solvay factory during Nazi occupation.
Cardinal SchÅnborn said that the Old Testament is a “great school” of Divine Mercy, as God repeatedly revealed His great mercy in delivering his people from Egypt.
He said that God’s anger often referred to in the Old Testament is an expression of God’s love.
He said Divine Mercy can only “take root” where sins have been recognised; therefore, sins are never “minimized” or “sanctioned”.
In this way, saying ‘Jesus, I trust you’ leads people to throw themselves into the Father’s merciful arms.
God the Father prepared His people for it throughout the Old Testament, and when in the fullness of time, He revealed His mercy through His only Son, Jesus Christ.
“How else could we learn of the Father’s mercy, but through the human form of Jesus?” Cardinal SchÅnborn said.
The cardinal said that Jesus answered the question of how is mercy possible in individual cases with the parable of the Good Samaritan – the very parable JPII used in his early Encyclical Letter ‘Dives in misericordia’, (Rich in mercy).
The parable showed that mercy is concrete – it does not relate to everybody at all times, but is for the person who needs help right here and right now.
He added that Divine Mercy prayers should draw us more intimately into the Eucharist, as after we receive it we are called to bring mercy to the world.
St Faustina said: “In this Sacrament, you have left us with your mercy.”
Those who embrace mercy can have their lives transformed, he said. Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said at the congress that God did not abandon men to sin and death, and reminded participants of JPII’s quote:
“The Church lives an authentic life when it proclaims God’s mercy.” He said the Sacraments, which we receive from the Church, are major streams through which God’s grace flows.
– In Baptism we are plunged into Christ’s passion – his death and resurrection, the very acts of His mercy.
– In Confirmation, the completion of baptism, we are more strictly bound to the Church and its call to mercy.
– In the Eucharist, the apex of Christian life, we give thanksgiving, supplication and adoration. This sacrament does not finish at Mass; He is always available for adoration and prayer in the tabernacle.
– In Anointing of the Sick, we are reminded of St Augustine’s comment: “The justification of sinners is a greater work than the creation of angels.”
– Penance is, through mercy, the sacrament of conversion.
– In Holy Orders, priests are called to be an instrument of God’s mercy to their congregation.
– In Matrimony, spouses are called to guide each other in the path to holiness and to raise their children in the faith.
Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of the Philippines told the congress that those touched by the love of God feel compelled to tell others about it, as did St Faustina. But it’s not just saints that are called to live out this mercy.
“We have all been recipients of the Divine Mercy of Jesus,” he said. “We are called to be respectful of beliefs of others but we can achieve our mission goal by living a true disciple’s life.”
Speaking on Mercy for the Mission of the Church, Sri Lankan Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith dissected religious fundamentalism in the light of Divine Mercy.
He reminded the congress of JPII’s quote: “Justice alone is not enough. It can lead to the annihilation of justice itself if we do not open the doors to love.”