The last three Holy Fathers – Pope Francis, Pope Benedict and St John Paul II – have all explicitly extolled the message of Divine Mercy, each one reminding us that the message of mercy is nothing less than a call back to the message of the Gospel itself.
Here is what these three Popes have to say on Divine Mercy.
Pope Francis Speaks About Mercy
“God’s justice is His mercy. Mercy is not opposed to justice, but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert and believe. At times how hard it seems to forgive. And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully.”
“I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think — and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.”
“A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient.”
“Together let us pray to the Virgin Mary that She helps us .. to walk in faith and charity, ever trusting in the Lord’s mercy.”
Pope Francis reminds us that the life of the Church “is authentic and credible only when she becomes a convincing herald of mercy (that) knows no bounds and extends to everyone without exception.”
Throughout his papacy so far, Pope Francis has consistently shown himself to be a messenger of mercy. This has been evident not only in the words he has spoken, but also in the deeds he has done – for example, in the strong rumour that he sometimes go out of the Vatican at night to give money to the poor; a rumour which, when directly asked about it in an interview, Archbishop Krajewski refused to deny.
In many ways, the active deeds of the Holy Father speak even more loudly than his words – although these are already powerful. Sometimes, it is easy to simply ‘say’ the right thing – much harder to actually ‘do’ the right thing. But in doing so, we lead by example and this is always a very powerful witness. It is also contagious; good deeds bring about further good deeds in those touched by them.
There are many examples of the Holy Father reaching out to those in the margins of society and defending their human dignity with compassion and kindness – people such as the poor, the imprisoned, the homeless, the disfigured, those weary beneath the weight of so many burdens. On those occasions when we see such people to whom the Pope has reached out, it always appears that his actions have moved them and, perhaps, changed them in some deep way. Even watching all of this through the media, it is difficult not to be moved by what we see.
The old word for this experience – that of the Holy Father, and that of us watching him in action and being touched by what we see – is ‘compassion’.
Compassion literally means ‘to suffer with’; to experience a little of the pain and burden of another, to see in him the living Christ and our neighbour, as the Gospel tells us. We are also told that ‘the Lord is compassion and love; slow to anger, abounding in mercy’.
To truly believe that and to live it out in our life is not always easy – but it is always very powerful.
Pope Francis has already told us many times and in many ways why this message matters to him, why it is a real and living thing – “The mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality”.
And if that is true and we benefit by the Divine Mercy, then it is also true that we are obliged to do as the Lord tells us – ‘be merciful, as your father in Heaven is merciful’. This is nothing more than a call back to the Beatitudes –
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’.
Pope Benedict Speaks About Mercy
“Mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message.. In our time, humanity needs a strong proclamation and witness of God’s mercy. Beloved John Paul II, a great apostle of Divine Mercy, prophetically intuited this urgent pastoral need. He dedicated his second Encyclical to it and throughout his Pontificate made himself the missionary of God’s love to all peoples.
After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, which darkened the dawn of the third millennium, he invited Christians and people of good will to believe that God’s mercy is stronger than all evil, and that only in the Cross of Christ is the world’s salvation found.”
— Angelus message on September 16, 2007
“On this occasion we encounter two mysteries: the mystery of human suffering and the mystery of Divine Mercy. At first sight these two mysteries seem to be opposed to one another. But when we study them more deeply in the light of faith, we find that they are placed in reciprocal harmony through the mystery of the Cross of Christ. As Pope John Paul II said in this place: “The Cross is the most profound bowing down of the Divinity towards man … the Cross is like a touch of eternal love on the most painful wounds of humanity’s earthly existence” (17th August 2002)
“Dear friends who are sick, who are marked by suffering in body or soul, you are most closely united to the Cross of Christ, and at the same time, you are the most eloquent witnesses of God’s mercy. Through you and through your suffering, he bows down toward humanity with love. You who say in silence: “Jesus, I trust in you” teach us that there is no faith more profound, no hope more alive and no love more ardent than the faith, hope and love of a person who in the midst of suffering places himself securely in God’s hands.” (Pope Benedict, Address to the Sick at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki on May 27, 2006)
“Indeed, mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God, the Face with which he revealed himself in the Old Covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redemptive Love. May this merciful love also shine on the face of the Church and show itself through the sacraments, in particular that of Reconciliation, and in works of charity, both communitarian and individual. May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God feels for man, and therefore for us. When the Church has to recall an unrecognized truth or a betrayed good, she always does so impelled by merciful love, so that men and women may have life and have it abundantly (cf. Jn 10:10). From Divine Mercy, which brings peace to hearts, genuine peace flows into the world, peace between different peoples, cultures and religions.”(Regina Caeli message on Divine Mercy Sunday, March 30, 2008)
Pope John Paul – Mercy
“The Message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me… which I took with me to the See of Peter and which in a sense forms the image of this Pontificate.”
These words were written by Pope John Paul II in his astonishingly beautiful encyclical ‘Dives In Misericordiae’ (Rich In Mercy) and reflected the truth of his life experience. As a young Priest in Poland in the first half of the 20th Century, he was well acquainted with the barbarous inhumanity of the Nazi regime which was poisoning the world at that time, characterised by an absolute lack of mercy and compassion. But he also knew the antidote to this poison – Divine Mercy, that great love of God which is more powerful than any evil or hatred.
The future Pope was also well acquainted with the message of Divine Mercy revealed to St Faustina, visiting her convent in his early years. Much later, he would be the instrument which removed the final obstacles impeding the propagation of the devotion; and eventually, he would canonise the holy nun and institute the Feast of Mercy, which we call Divine Mercy Sunday – one of the specific requests of the Lord in His revelations to St Faustina. He later said that doing so was the happiest day of his life.
Like our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, John Paul also lived a life of mercy – his actions an echo of the commands of the Lord in the Gospels to ‘be merciful’, a living witness of Divine Mercy. Such was the case when, in May 1981, he was shot in St Peter’s Square on the anniversary of the appearance of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima. He went on to visit and to forgive his would-be assassin.
Pope John Paul’s thoughts on Divine Mercy were crystallised in his encyclical ‘Dives In Misericordiae‘ (Rich In Mercy), published in late 1980.
This exceptionally beautiful document examines the revelation of mercy in the Old Testament and incarnation of Mercy revealed in the New Testament, with the Paschal Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection as the culmination of Mercy; the role of Mary, the Mother of Mercy; and the role of Divine Mercy in the mission of the Church.
After a life where the message of Divine Mercy was continually interwoven amongst the facets of his life as man, priest and eventually Pope, it should come as no surprise that Pope John Paul II died on 3rd April 2005, the vigil of the feast of Divine Mercy, that very same feast which he had given to the Church and to the world. Neither should we be surprised that Pope John Paul II was canonised on the Feast of Divine Mercy, 27th April 2014 by our present Holy Father, Pope Francis. Pope Francis later recalled that Pope John Paul’s institution of Divine Mercy Sunday showed his insight and realisation that a new ‘age of mercy’ was needed in the church and the world.
Pope John Paul II continues to be a shining witness to the message of Divine Mercy, that same Mercy which is proclaimed continually in the Gospels, and to which we are constantly called back, whose message we, too, are asked to live out in our own lives.
May this great Pope Of Mercy, John Paul II, pray for us and assist us in achieving this.
“Christ, then, reveals God who is Father, who is ‘love’.. Christ reveals God as ‘rich in mercy’ as we read in St. Paul. This truth is not just the subject of a teaching; it is a reality made present to us by Christ. Making the Father present as love and mercy is, in Christ’s own consciousness, the fundamental touchstone of His mission as the Messiah”
“The Paschal Mystery is the culmination of this revealing and effecting of mercy, which is able to justify man, to restore justice in the sense of that salvific order which God willed from the beginning in man and, through man, in the world. The suffering Christ speaks in a special way to man, and not only to the believer.”
“Mary is also the one who obtained mercy in a particular and exceptional way, as no other person has. At the same time, still in an exceptional way, She made possible, with the sacrifice of Her Heart, Her own sharing in revealing God’s mercy. This sacrifice is intimately linked with the cross of Her Son, at the foot of which She was to stand on Calvary. Her sacrifice is a unique sharing in the revelation of mercy.”