Francis opens Jubilee year with call for church that puts mercy before judgment | National Catholic Reporter

Source: Francis opens Jubilee year with call for church that puts mercy before judgment | National Catholic Reporter

Today begins the Jubilee year called by Pope Francis as the Year of Mercy. we are called to recognize God’s mercy to all people and to exercise mercy ourselves.

We are also to release others from debts, to free the captives, welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, and live in peace.

I am happy to see that Francis is also emphasizing the openness to the Spirit and to the world that are exemplified by Vatican II. I appreciate his example of reaching out to people of different belief systems and to non-believers. As with the papal encyclical Laduato Si’, he calls all people of good will to encounter each other in love, solidarity, and peace.


On my way to church this morning, I heard a report on NPR about the fiftieth anniversary of the Vatican II document “Nostra Aetate” which was a declaration on the relationship of the Catholic Church with non-Christian religions. The report also reviewed the horrible treatment that the Catholic church had inflicted on other faiths, especially the Jewish people.

I am very grateful to have been born at a time when I do not remember the church being against other people because of their religious beliefs or lack of belief.  It saddens and upsets me that not all Catholics have accepted this now fifty-year-old teaching. This gives the impression that Catholics are still condemning others for not being Catholic or Christian, even though most of us do not. Rather, we accept all people of good will as together we strive for greater love and peace in the world.

One of my favorite things about Francis is that he shows this attitude to the world. He regularly meets with people of diverse faith traditions, agnostics, and atheists. He often prays in silence in settings that include people of many traditions so that he does not seem to be pushing Catholic prayer onto others. When he spoke in Washington on his recent trip to the United States, he asked the crowd and television viewers to pray for him or, if prayer was not part of their own belief system, to send positive thoughts.

People around the world recognize Francis as a spiritual leader, not just a Catholic leader, because he does care about every person and, as he terms it, “our common home.”  Although he was brought up in the pre-Vatican II church, he fully embraces and lives the council’s messages.

The message is needed now more than ever. There is so much to do to improve the lives of people and the planet. We, all people of good will, need to move forward together.

Saint John XXIII

Today, the Catholic church canonized Pope John XXIII along with Pope John Paul II.  Although John Paul was pope for about half of my lifetime, it is John’s legacy that most shaped the church that I know.

Because I was born in 1960, the only church I have known is the Vatican II church. I don’t remember when the Mass was in Latin rather than the vernacular and the choir was the only one singing the responses. I grew up with the expectation that I would continue to study the Bible, theology, spirituality, and doctrine and be responsible for developing and acting in accordance with my own conscience. It would have been very different if John, elected at 78 and not expected to do anything of substance, had not had the vision and inspiration of the Spirit to convene the Council of the world’s Catholic bishops and invite observers from other faiths. He wanted an “aggiornamento” or updating of the church, to open the Church, which had not changed  significantly in the centuries since the Council of Trent in reaction to the Protestant Reformation, to the modern world. This is the Church in which I was raised and which I continue to live out in my life to the best of my abilities.

Much of the secular media coverage talks about how the Church is “making” these two popes saints, but that is a mistaken characterization. Rather, the Church recognizes that these men are saints in heaven. God “makes” saints. Alleluia!


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