“Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” Jesuit priest Antonio Spadaro, Editor of the Italian Magazine, ‘La Civilata Catolica,’ asked Pope Francis on 19 August, 2013.
The Pope replied, I do not know what might be the most fitting description of myself…. I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre, but the one that comes more from the inside and what I feel most true; I am a sinner, one who is looked upon mercifully, by the Lord. I always feel my motto, ‘Miserando atque Eligendo,’ very true for me.”
“Whenever I had to come to Rome, I always stayed in ‘Via della Scrofa’. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, to contemplate the painting, ‘The Calling of St. Matthew,’ by Caravaggio. In this Jesus points his finger at Mathew. That’s me. I feel like Mathew…Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff. I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept, in a spirit of penance.”
Two years later, Pope Francis announced the extraordinary Year of Mercy, through the Apostolic Bull, ‘Misericordiae Vultus’ (MV). He wrote: “Jesus’ person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously… Jesus, seeing the crowds of people who followed him, realized that they were tired and exhausted, lost and without a guide, and He felt deep compassion for them (Mt 9:36). On the basis of this compassionate love, He healed the sick who were presented to Him (Mt 14:14), and with just a few loaves of bread and some fish he satisfied the enormous crowd (Mt 15:37). What moved Jesus in all these situations was nothing other than mercy. With mercy, He read the hearts of those he encountered and responded to their deepest need” (MV 8).
Announcing the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis invites us to be merciful: “We want to live this Jubilee Year in light of the Lord’s words: ‘Merciful like the Father’” (Lk 6:36; MV. 13). December first week, in an interview to the Italian magazine, ‘Credere’ he said, “We have to bring about the revolution of tenderness today as a fruit of the ‘Year of Mercy’, the tenderness of God toward each one of us.”
In short, the Jubilee Year of Mercy, as the “Pope of Mercy” sees it, is not just a series of celebrations and events intended to foster deeper piety. The far more audacious aim is to launch a revolution – spiritual at its core, but with imminently social and even political consequences.
Francis seems convinced that the social change he’s after – stronger measures on climate change, a halt to illegal arms trafficking, greater investment in anti-poverty efforts, and so on – is dependent on something more fundamental, that is mercy.
The pope wishes that there be a gentle transformation of the world through a “revolution of tenderness.” Does the Church in India feel challenged by his invitation to become the compassionate face of the Father to everyone, especially to the most miserable?
Dr. Jacob Naluparayil