A happy new year to you all and welcome to this first issue of Pathways for 2016.
As a Sister of Mercy, I belong to one of the many congregations and other organisations from throughout the world which take their particular inspiration from ‘mercy’ so we are especially pleased that Pope Francis has dedicated this year as the ‘Year of Mercy’. However, each and every one of our congregations has a special commitment of its own to reflecting the mercy and compassion of God, so this can be a very special year for us all and for the whole of the Church. It is a gift to us all.
A lot will rightly be said this year about the challenge the Year of Mercy bestows to the world in terms of our response to issues such as climate change, refugees, poverty, gender inequality and sadly many others.
I believe it is also calling on all of us to maintain our focus on ensuring we are a merciful Church and a welcoming Church, as well as bringing Mercy into the troubles of the wider world. The crisis of abuse by church personnel reminds us that we are not just a Church of mercy but a church in desperate need of mercy. This can be a year in which we know ourselves as recipients of the great mercy of God through the kindness of others, even while we try to be channels of that same mercy to others.
Pope Francis has implored the Church to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and to do this in a way that ‘excludes no one’. He says, “the Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. The Church ‘has an endless desire to show mercy’ and perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy” (Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy # 10).
He says, “Nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy”. It is absolutely essential for the Church and for the credibility of her message that she herself live and testify to mercy” (Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy # 10 and 12).
The Year of Mercy is a time for religious congregations to use our knowledge and experience in pastoral ministry to assist the entire church to be a more welcoming presence for all people and in so doing more fully become the merciful expression of God’s love that Pope Francis is calling us to become.