Church

“Missionaries of Mercy”: What Does Pope Francis Mean By Them?

Archbishop says words that are “like rocks and stones” may constitute “violence” against the pope

VATICAN CITY — In presenting a detailed outline of what Catholics need to know about the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which opens on December 8, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, provided a fuller explanation of what are being called “Missionaries of Mercy,” and how Pope Francis intends to use them.

The “Missionaries of Mercy” are priests from various parts of the world, recommended by their own bishops, who are to be “living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon” (Misericordiae vultus).

At the invitation of local bishops, the missionaries will be sent to dioceses around the world to preach, lead spiritual retreats, and hear confessions. The missionaries number 800, with some 100 priests being assigned to the United States.

On Ash Wednesday 2016, these priests will receive the mandate from the Holy Father to be preachers of mercy and confessors full of mercy.

They will also receive from the Holy Father the authority to pardon “even those sins reserved to the Holy See” (Bull of Indiction, n. 18). These sins include: Violation or profanation of the Holy Eucharist (CIC 1367), which the archbishop says occurs “much more frequently that one might think”; Absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment (CIC 1378); Unauthorized ordination of a bishop, which penalty is incurred by both the ordaining bishop and by the bishop who is ordained (CIC 1382); Direct violation by a confessor of the seal of confession (CIC 1388), which Archbishop Fisichella called “one of the most precious elements that the Church possesses”; and physical violence on the Roman Pontiff (CIC 1370).

Regarding what constitutes “physical violence” against the Pope, Archbishop Fisichella told journalists at Friday’s briefing: “I would say that we need to understand well ‘physical violence,’ because sometimes words, too, are rocks and stones, and therefore I believe some of these sins, too, are far more widespread than we might think.”

Citing the letter Pope Francis addressed to him in early September, outlining several points he wished to focus on in Year of Mercy, the archbishop reiterated that the Pope will extend to all priests, for the Jubilee Year, “the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.”

Finally, he underscored that the Missionaries of Mercy “are appointed exclusively by the Holy Father, and that the faculty of forgiving reserved sins will be given to each one of them personally.”

“No bishop in his own diocese may appoint these Missionaries, nor may he confer faculties that he does not possess. Anyone wishing to invite the Missionaries for a liturgy, a retreat, or a special event can do so by accessing the list that will be made available to bishops,” he said.

Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.