Missionaries of Mercy

Pope Francis has recently called for an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which will start on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015 and end on the Feast of Christ the King, November 20, 2016.  Click here to read the proclamation in Pope Francis’s Apostolic Letter, “Misericordiae Vultus” (The Face of Mercy).

It’s very readable, so I won’t summarize all of its points here, but I would like to highlight one intriguing initiative, the “Missionaries of Mercy,” priests who will be sent out to dioceses throughout the world.

In the Pope’s words:

During Lent of this Holy Year, I intend to send out Missionaries of Mercy.  They will be a sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. They will be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon.[18]

Fascinating!  I immediately looked up what sins could be absolved only by the Holy See, and learned there are five:

  1. defiling the Eucharist
  2. attempting to assassinate the Pope
  3. as a priest, breaking the seal of confession by revealing who has sought penance and why
  4. offering  of absolution by priests to their own sexual partners
  5. directly participating in an abortion, such as by funding it, and later seeking to become a priest or deacon

Of course, as a baptized layman, I should not be so distracted by this that I lose sight of my own responsibilities during this Year of Mercy.  The Pope was pretty clear about that too, and among other things, he encourages us to rediscover the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy during the Jubilee.   He lists them, in case we’ve forgotten them:

The corporal works of mercy:

  1.  to feed the hungry,
  2. give drink to the thirsty,
  3. clothe the naked,
  4. welcome the stranger,
  5. heal the sick,
  6. visit the imprisoned, and
  7. bury the dead

 and the spiritual works of mercy:

  1. counsel the doubtful,
  2. instruct the ignorant,
  3. admonish sinners,
  4. comfort the afflicted,
  5. forgive offences,
  6. bear patiently those who do us ill, and
  7. pray for the living and the dead.

As it turns out, we’ve all been challenged to be “Missionaries of Mercy.”


Misericordiae Vultus” (The Face of Mercy). April 11, 2015, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco_bolla_20150411_misericordiae-vultus.html, accessed on April 14, 2015.

Pope Francis presents Bull of Indiction of Jubilee of Mercy, Vatican Radio, April 11,  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/04/11/pope_francis_presents_bull_of_indiction_of_jubilee_of_mercy/1136108, accessed on April 14, 2015.

Vatican Reveals Sins Only Pope Can Forgive, Nation Post, January 16, 2009, http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=d9e2cfc6-182d-4afc-9e0f-9708f1bea4f9, accessed on April 14, 2015.