Friday, December 13, 2019

Greetings for Ambassadors of Mercy in France

This morning, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience, at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the members of the Associations, Congregations and Movements dedicated to Mercy who are working in France.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to French Ambassadors of Mercy

Dear brothers and sisters,

I thank you for your visit, on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome as representatives of associations, congregations and movements dedicated to divine mercy.  I thank Cardinal Barbarin for the words with which he has introduced our gathering.  What unites you is the desire to let the world know the joy of mercy through the diversity of your charisms: with people in precarious situations, with migrants, the sick, prisoners, people with disabilities and with wounded families. This diversity that you represent is very beautiful: it expresses the fact that there is no human poverty that God does not want to reach, touch and help.  The Church has the mission to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which through it must reach the heart and mind of every person (Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae Vultus, 12).

In fact, mercy is the ultimate and supreme act with which God comes to meet us and which opens our hearts to the hope of being loved forever, whatever our poverty, whatever our sin may be. God's love for us is not an abstract word. It has become visible and tangible in Jesus Christ. This is why it is on the same wavelength that the merciful love of Christians must be directed. In the same way as we love the Father, so we love his children. As he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to one another (MV, 9).

In the Bull of Induction for the Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae vultus, I hoped that, from the perspective of the new evangelization which the world needs so much, the theme of mercy would be re-proposed with new enthusiasm and renewed pastoral action. It is decisive for the Church and for the credibility of her proclamation that she lives and witnesses mercy firsthand. Her language and gestures must transmit mercy in order to penetrate the hearts of people and to provoke them to find their way back to the Father (MV, 12).

I see, and I welcome it, that there are many in the Church in France who, with the support and encouragement of their pastors, hear this appeal. And it is nice that you do it together, that you find, together, ways to meet together, to pray and to share, to share your difficulties and experiences, but above all to share joys and gratitude, because there is real joy in proclaiming the mercy of the Lord, in proclaiming Him who knelt before his disciples to wash their feet and said: You will be blessed if you do this (cf Jn 13:17; cf Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 24) . I hope that you find ways to bear witness to this joy of evangelizing by announcing God's mercy, and to pass on this passion to others and to spread the culture of mercy, which the world so urgently needs.

And so that you can do this, I would like to invite you to always be very careful to keep alive, first of all in the depths of your hearts, this mercy of which you are witnesses. May the fulfillment, sometimes very demanding and tiring, of your charitable activities never suffocate the breath of tenderness and compassion with which they must be animated, and the look that expresses it. Not a look that starts from the top with condescension, but a look of a brother and a sister, a look that raises up the other. This is the first thing that the rescued people must find in you, because first of all, they need to feel understood, appreciated, respected and loved. And then another thing, which is not written but which the Cardinal will translate you. There is only one legitimate way to look at a person from the top down, only one: in order to help that person rise up again. Otherwise you can never look at a person from the top down. Just how you do it: to help people to rise up.

On the other hand, I believe that we can be authentic apostles of mercy only if we are deeply aware of having been the object of the Father's mercy, and also, humbly, of being still the object of mercy while we ourselves exercise mercy. Saint John Paul II wrote: We must also continually purify all our actions and our intentions in which mercy is understood and practiced unilaterally [...]. Only then, in effect, is it really an act of merciful love: when, realizing it, we are deeply convinced that, at the same time, we experience it on the part of those who accept it from us. If this bilateralism, this reciprocity is lacking, our actions are not yet authentic acts of mercy (Dives in misericordia, 14).

In this time of preparation for Christmas, I propose that you contemplate the crib. It is an invitation to 'feel', to 'touch' the poverty that the Son of God chose for himself in his Incarnation. And so, implicitly, it is a call to follow him on the path of humility, poverty, despoilment, which leads from the manger in Bethlehem to the Cross. It is a call to meet and serve him with mercy in our brothers and sisters in need (cf Mt 25: 31-46; Apostolic Letter Admirabile signum, 3), and I hope that you will be strongly encouraged and renewed in your dedication.

I thank you again for your visit, and I wish for you, for your families and for your communities a joyous celebration of Christmas.  And please, don't forget to pray for me.  Thank you.
Testo originale nella lingua italiana
Texte en fran├žais

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