The 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy opened in Manila, Philippines, yesterday. The Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the provincial superior of the Marian Fathers in North America and Argentina; Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, the vice-postulator for the Canonization of St. Faustina; and Nurse Marie Romagnano of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy are in attendance and reporting from the events. Father Kaz writes:
On January 16, 2017, the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy opened at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Manila, Philippines, with over 5,000 delegates from around the world participating. Its theme: “Communion in Mercy, Mission for Mercy.”
The cathedral was packed, but almost half of the attendees were seated outside the cathedral. In attendance were two cardinals, five archbishops, 75 bishops, and over 500 priests.
The Congress began at the Hour of Great Mercy with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, led Most Rev. Romulo Dela Cruz, DD, archbishop of Zamboanga.
The solemn celebration of the Holy Eucharist followed and was presided over by Most Rev. Giuseppe Pinto, DD, apostolic nuncio in the Philippines. His Eminence, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, DD, archbishop of Manila, gave the homily. He reminded the congressgoers that this day, the 16th, is the second anniversary of the Holy Father Pope Francis’s visit to the Philippines. Also, this Congress follows in the footsteps of the Jubilee Year of Mercy which recently concluded — mercy upon mercy.
The liturgy was celebrated in honor of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, and the Gospel for the opening Liturgy was from the second chapter of St. John: Jesus at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.
In his homily, Cardinal Tagle invited all to turn to Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of Mercy, for her protection and assistance.
“Do whatever He tells you,” Mary said, and the servants obeyed her. Water changed into wine. This was the first sign of the Son of God that led His disciples to believe in Him, to put faith in Him. A moment of crisis for the newly wedded couple. With Jesus it becomes a moment of grace and happiness. This was the first sign — but there were many more that Jesus performed. The One sent by God comes to the people in need, to heal, to give food to the hungry, to save those trapped in sin and evil. Jesus, the Son of God, comes with God’s mercy. There’s no human need that Jesus cannot address. The signs of Jesus are the face, the voice, the hands of the Mercy of God. They are an invitation to faith. Let us not be afraid to open our hearts, our lives, to Christ. Let us place our faith, our trust in the Risen One, in His power to heal, to forgive, to assist. Let us turn to the Mother of Jesus — let us heed her voice and “do whatever He tells you.”
Other notable concelebrants were Most Rev. Socrates Villegas, DD, archbishop of Lingayen–Dagupan and president of the Philippine Conference of Catholic Bishops; Most Rev. Ruperto Santos, DD, bishop of Balanga and WACOM-Asia episcopal coordinator; Most Rev. Jose Oliveros, DD, bishop of Malolos, WACOM National Episcopal Coordinator; Most Rev. Ginataras Grusas, archbishop of Vilnius, Lithuania; Rev. Fr. Patrice Chocholski, WACOM secretary general; and Rev. Fr. Prospero Tenorio, WACOM-Asia Secretary General.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon, France, was due to arrive later in the evening. He was delegated by Pope Francis to be his personal representative to the Congress. He will deliver the Holy Father’s special message written to the Congress participants on the second day of Congress activities.
His Eminence, Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, the president of WACOM, will not be able to attend as he is recovering from the flu. His message will be delivered by Mr. Josef Grassy, his personal secretary.
Five Marian Fathers were in attendance on this first day — from Europe, Philippines, and the United States. Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, will speak on the second day of the Congress, which will include major talks at San Tomas University.
Convened every three years, WACOM is an international gathering of Divine Mercy devotees and promoters, including bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters, and laity. It was first convened by the Vatican on April 2-6, 2008, in Rome, Italy, which coincided with the third anniversary of the death of St. Pope John Paul II. The second WACOM was held in Krakow, Poland, from October 1 to 5, 2011, and the third was held in Bogota, Columbia, from August 14 to 18, 2014. Between WACOMs, continental, national, and regional congresses take place.