The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.
The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I
Since he became pope, Pope Francis has instinctively modelled mercy. He washed the feet of prisoners on his first Holy Thursday as pontiff. He prayed for the migrants who drowned at Lampedusa, asking, “Has any one wept?” Of the vexed question of the Church’s attitude towards homosexuality, he said, "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?"
Earlier this year Pope Francis announced an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy to be observed by the whole Church from the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, 8 December 2015, to the feast of Christ the King, 20 November, 2016. A jubilee year is a special time proclaimed by the Church to receive grace, blessing and pardon from God.
In the official proclamation of the Jubilee, Pope Francis writes, “How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!”
The year’s motto is “Merciful like the Father” and there are numerous instances of God’s mercy in the scriptures. The year’s logo depicts the good Samaritan, and Pope Francis says, “During this Jubilee, the Church will be called even more to heal…wounds…to bind them with mercy and cure them with solidarity and vigilant care.”
On 8 December, Pope Francis will open the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and on Sunday 13 December, all around the world, bishops will open local Holy Doors in an echo of the Pope’s gesture. Bishop Bill Wright will open the Holy Door of Sacred Heart Cathedral, Newcastle, and lead celebrations of the beginning of the Year of Mercy − and everyone is invited!
There will be prayer, including a procession to the Door of Mercy which will be opened for all to walk through. The celebrations will continue with everyone invited to share refreshments, Irish music and Carols. For event details, click here.