POPE’S MESSAGE | Mercy received must be mercy shared

CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters
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VATICAN CITY — God's mercy is infectious and must be shared with others, Pope Francis said. Mercy is "a journey that departs from the heart to arrive at the hands," the pope said Aug. 10 at his weekly general audience.

In his main audience talk, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel story of Jesus raising from the dead the son of the widow of Nain, giving renewed hope not just to the woman and her son, but to all.

"The powerful word of Jesus can make us rise again and takes us, too, from death to life," the pope said. "His word revives us, gives hope, refreshes weary hearts and opens us to a vision of the world and of life that goes beyond suffering and death."

Pope Francis ended his main talk by insisting that "Jesus watches you, heals you with His mercy and says, 'Arise,' and your heart is new."

"And what do I do now with this new heart healed by Jesus?" he asked. "I do the works of mercy with my hands and I try to help, to heal the many who are in need. Mercy is a journey that departs from the heart and arrives at the hands, at the works of mercy."

Greeting Italian visitors at the end of the audience, the pope returned to his point about how the experience of mercy must lead Christians to concrete acts of mercy toward others.

Recently, he said, a bishop told him that in his cathedral, there is not just one Holy Door designated for the Year of Mercy, but two.

One Holy Door is an entrance, the doorway people pass through to ask for God's forgiveness and receive it in the sacraments. The other door is an exit, "to go out and bring God's mercy to others with the works of mercy. This bishop is intelligent, isn't he?" the pope said.

"In our hearts we receive the mercy of Jesus, who gives us pardon because God forgives everything, everything," the pope said. "He raises us up. He gives us new life and He also infects us with His compassion. From our hearts forgiven and healed, and with the compassion of Jesus, the journey toward our hands begins, that is, toward the works of mercy." 

Pope praises witness of athletes on Refugee Olympic Team

VATICAN CITY — In a personal message addressed to each of the 10 members of the new Refugee Olympic Team, Pope Francis wished them success in their events and thanked them for the witness they are giving the world.

Naming each of the team's athletes from South Sudan, Syria, Congo and Ethiopia, Pope Francis said he had read some of the interviews with team members "so that I could get closer to your lives and your aspirations."

"I extend my greetings and wish you success at the Olympic Games in Rio — that your courage and strength find expression through the Olympic Games and serve as a cry for peace and solidarity," he said in the message, signed in late July.

The 2016 Summer Games marked the first time a refugee team officially participated in the Olympics. Team members marched under the Olympic flag and, in the event a team member wins a medal, the Olympic anthem was to be played instead of the national anthem of the athlete's home country.

Pope Francis expressed his hope that through the team "humanity would understand that peace is possible, that with peace everything can gained, but with war all can be lost."

"Your experience serves as testimony and benefits us all," the pope told team members.

Yusra Mardini, 18, was the first member of the team to compete in Rio. The swimmer is ranked 41st among women swimmers competing in the 100-meter butterfly; Mardini finished first in her initial heat Aug. 6.

Like tens of thousands of Syrians, Mardini fled her war-torn country through Lebanon and Turkey. She found a space on a rubber dingy to make her way to Lesbos, Greece, but the motor stalled. She, her sister and another woman — the only people on the boat who could swim — pushed the boat to shore.

Five of the athletes — including Rose Nathike Lokonyen, 23, the team's flag bearer for the opening ceremony — are South Sudanese refugees who were living in the huge Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service 

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