‘Announce the Divine Mercy to All Mankind’

Father Patrice Chocholski, World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM) general secretary, took some time out of his busy schedule at the Congress to discuss what WACOM is and how the whole Church is called to proclaim Divine Mercy.

Now, Father, you’ve played a role in organizing all of the Congresses?
The diocese of Bogota completely organized the Congress. As the WACOM secretariat, we invited the people. We know the delegations from all over the world, so we invited them, we motivated them. We invited also all those who have a talk or testimonies because we got to know them all over the world, but we are very grateful to the archdiocese of Bogota that offered the priests, helped to be the local organizer. We are very grateful also to all the laypeople, about 200 volunteers, that have been doing their best to organize the Congress. We are in charge also of the future of the congresses, so this is more or less our duty on this.

Where do you see WACOM’s place in the life of the Church?
WACOM wants to be an answer to the universal call to the Divine Mercy John Paul II gave on August 17-18, 2002. It was a universal call to the universal Church and also to the world, and so we feel the duty to answer this call with the whole church. We had a first Congress in Rome in 2008. Pope Benedict presided at the first Mass of the Congress. Then we were in Krakow in 2011 [where] St. John Paul II, St. Faustina [lived]. And now it is the Third World Congress. We are no longer in Europe; we are in a country where mission is first, and so this fits with the goal of John Paul II that Divine Mercy may become the paradigm of evangelization. Pope Francis, who always speaks in terms of mercy, wanted to participate to this Congress. He could not because he was already involved with Korea, but he sent his message to Cardinal Schoenborn as president of WACOM, to the Archbishop of Colombia. It is a very beautiful message in which he speaks of all the saints as an image of the Divine Mercy incarnated with the help of the unique incarnated Word, Jesus, and he calls us once again to mission. So it is very special, this Congress. It will help humanity, human kind of the third millennium, to walk in the light of Divine Mercy according to the prophecy of St. John Paul.

What has been the highlight for you of this congress so far?
Reconciliation through mercy. The world will not find peace if it does not turn itself to the Divine Mercy, the mystery of mercy, and then mission. Reconciliation and mission.

What would you say to all those Divine Mercy followers who couldn’t be at WACOM? What message would you send them?
I invite you to do the same in your country, in the United States, in your diocese, in your parishes. Be in contact with those who participated, because it is a kind of model. In the morning we have good conferences, good talks with content, we have good testimonies, we have joyful celebrations, and then in the afternoon, we go outside because mercy’s going outside to visit the poor, to visit everybody, and to bring the Divine Mercy, to announce the Divine Mercy to all mankind.

A Third Congress Will Convene!

The third World Apostolic Congress on Mercy will be held Aug. 15-19, in Bogota, Colombia. The Congress is expected to draw thousands of people, including many cardinals, and will include testimonies, lectures, street celebrations, Holy Masses, and missions.

“Once again we will gather together people from around the world to deepen our faith in, and awareness of, the Merciful Jesus and to bring the Divine Mercy message into the daily life of the Church and the world,” said Fr. Patrice Chocholski of Lyon, France, general secretary of the Congress.

The structure of the Congress will be similar to the previous: five days with talks and testimonies in the morning, workshops and mission in parishes in the afternoon, and festivals in the evening. Speakers will include Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, president of the Mercy Congress, discussing “Divine Mercy, Our Mission”; Cardinal Rubén Salazar, Archbishop of Bogota, addressing “Mercy at the Service of Reconciliation and Peace in Colombia”; and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland. Mass celebrants will include Msgr. Alapati Mata’eliga, archbishop of Apia, Samoa-Oceania; Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Lyon, France; and Msgr. Ettore Ballestrero, Apostolic Nuncio to Colombia.

The Congress will use as its inspiration what has become the master plan for the New Evangelization in Latin America, the so called “Aparecida Document.” Written under the guidance of former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis), the document stems from the Fifth General Assembly of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Brazil in 2007.

As with the two previous Congresses — the first in Rome in 2008 and the second in Poland in 2011 — the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception are deeply involved in the planning, and will be organizing a pilgrimage for Marian Helpers and all who wish to attend the Congress. (We will provide updates as more information becomes available.)

“The Congress will help people come to know God as a God of mercy who can cure us from our brokenness, our sinfulness and our fears,” said Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the Marians’ Provincial Superior in the United States and Argentina. “We will share how He wants us to do the same for each other — to carry each others’ crosses — in a world in desperate need of His profound gift of mercy.”

We will continue to post updates on the plans at mercycongress.

‘The Light for Humankind’

Father Patrice Chocholski, general secretary of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, addresses Congress organizers in Krakow, Poland, before the close of the five-day Congress in October.

By Felix Carroll (Feb 20, 2012)
Only four months since the historic second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Poland, organizers are already gearing up for the third World Congress, planned for Bogota, Columbia, in 2013 or 2014.

In a recent video, Fr. Patrice Chocholski of Lyon, France, general secretary of the Congress, extends his gratitude to the more than 2,000 people from around the world who attended the Congress, held on the grounds of the convent where St. Maria Faustina Kowalska lived.

“Divine Mercy,” says Fr. Patrice, “is becoming the light for humankind in the third millennium.”

He describes the message of Divine Mercy as “our treasure. … So let’s give it to all people so that they may be more conscious, more aware and more motivated by the mystery of the love of God.”

View Fr. Patrice’s video:

The Congress, on Oct. 1-5, gathered Divine Mercy apostles from 69 countries to the outskirts of Krakow, where the “spark” of the modern Divine Mercy movement was lit with the revelations of St. Faustina in the 1930s.

The Congress underscored two truths: the urgency of the Divine Mercy message for the Church and the world, and the fittingness of the metaphor that defines its spread, from “spark” to “flame” to “wildfire.”

For five days, it was standing-room only inside the Basilica of Divine Mercy, a mere several hundred feet away from the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy where Jesus told St. Faustina, “Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy” (Diary of St. Faustina, 300). Jesus told St. Faustina that His mercy message to her — a reinforcement of the Gospel call to turn away from sin, turn in trust to His mercy, and share His mercy with others — stands as the “spark” that “will prepare the world for My final coming” (Diary, 1732).

Among the highlights of the Congress were:

• Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria, president of the Mercy Congress, called for St. Faustina to join the ranks of only 33 other saints who have been declared Doctors of the Universal Church. His Eminence announced that on behalf of the Congress, a formal request has been made to Pope Benedict XVI to bestow upon St. Faustina the distinguished ecclesiastical title of Doctor of the Church. Signatories of the request include prelates who attended the Congress — Cardinals Stanislaw Dziwisz, Audrys Juozas Backis, Stanislaw Rylko, Joseph Zen, Franciszek Macharski, and Philippe Xavier Barbarin.

Congress organizers, Cardinal Schonborn and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, pushed for drafting this formal request believing St. Faustina’s teachings of the mystery of God’s mercy — and the influence her Diary has exerted all over the world — make her eminently qualified for the title.

• Cardinal Dziwisz announced plans to found an international academy in Krakow that will serve for theological and pastoral formation on Divine Mercy.

• Inspired by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, through the person of the Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC (Marian provincial superior in the U.S. and Argentina), Cardinal Schonborn announced that on behalf of the Congress representatives, a letter was sent to the Vatican proposing that the Divine Mercy message be placed at the center of the “New Evangelization” call from the Holy Father.

Pope Benedict XVI has chosen “New Evangelization” as the theme for the next world Synod of Bishops this October at the Vatican. He said the theme reflects a need to “re-evangelize in countries where Christian faith and practice have declined, and where people have even moved away from the Church.”

Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, who worked with Fr. Kaz to draft the proposal to the Holy See, says the proposal offers Divine Mercy “as a way to help people assimilate the truth of the faith, so that it becomes more deeply rooted in their hearts.

“God is infinite mercy,” says Fr. Michael, director of the Association of Marian Helpers. “We know it with our heads but not in our hearts. Divine Mercy provides us with many evangelistic tools — the Image, which is art; the Diary of St. Faustina, which is personal testimony; the Chaplet, which is personal prayer; the Three O’clock Hour of Great Mercy, which is meditative; and the Feast of Divine Mercy, which is Church-wide — to accomplish this.”

Father Kaz says the Marians have recognized “the need to expand our evangelization efforts to parishes. Our goal is to make the message of Divine Mercy more known, so that it may affect a deeper renewal in the Church worldwide. We see that wherever Divine Mercy is embraced, it produces greater love for the Lord, increased participation in the Sacraments, Eucharistic Adoration, adult faith-formation, and greater involvement in works of mercy.”

For more Mercy Congress news, visit mercycongress.org.

The Congress Catches Fire!

Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev explained Eastern teachings that, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said, “shared our understanding of God’s limitless love.”

Russian Orthodox Bishop: God’s Mercy is immeasurable love of the Father; Cardinal Schonborn Agrees

By Dan Valenti (Apr 6, 2008)

How far can the mercy of God extend? Is there a limit? According to Jesus’ own revelations to St. Faustina, the answer is no. God’s mercy for His creation is unfathomable, without boundary, and unlimited by any constraint, human, or non-human.

In an amazing, even surprising ecumenical moment in the Catholic Church’s first World Congress on Divine Mercy, Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, bishop of Vienna and Austria as well as temporary administrator of the Diocese of Budapest and Hungary, took Divine Mercy to its logical conclusion. God is Love, all He created and sustains is always loved by Him. Even the creation that rejects Him continues in existence by His love. This unfathomable Divine Mercy can even make hell* “Gehenna,” temporary, according to Bishop Hilarion, who spoke on Day 3 of the Congress (Friday, April 5) at St. John Lateran Basilica.

After Bishop Hilarion’s presentation, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn,
who is presiding over the Congress in the name of Pope Benedict XVI,
chatted warmly with Bishop Hilarion, shaking his hand and thanking him for his “courageous witness on the absolute mercy of God.”

The congress had found its electric moment.

Love Beyond Understanding
Referencing St. Isaac the Syrian, a 7th-century holy man and hermit revered in Russian Orthodoxy as “famous among the saints,” Bishop Hilarion shared his understanding of divine love and the “merciful heart” found in humans as providential love’s great manifestation. This “love is beyond human understanding and above all description in words. Divine love was the main reason for the creation of the universe and is the main driving force behind the whole of creation.”

Calling Divine Mercy “a continuing realization of the creative potential of God,” Bishop Hilarion told a rapt audience of some 8,000 that the driving force of “the true Father” is His “immeasurable love,” a love that surpasses understanding, though it does not require understanding to be experienced.

“Thus His attitude to the created world is characterized by an unceasing providential care for all its inhabitants: for angels and demons, human beings and animals,” Bishop Hilarion said. “God’s providence is universal and embraces all. None of His creatures is excluded from the scope of the loving presence of God … There is not a single nature who is in the first place or last place in creation in the Creator’s knowledge. Similarly, there is no before or after in His love toward them.”

Bishop Hilarion then took the attendees hearing this extraordinary teaching through a list of acts performed by the merciful God, beginning with creation. Though God knew mankind would fall and reject His love, He created us anyway. “To say that the love of God diminishes or vanishes because of a created being’s fall means ‘to reduce the glorious Nature of the Creator to weakness and change'” (from The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian translated by D. Miller, Boston, Mass., 1984, p.51).

Forgiveness, ‘Without Any Blame’
In an astounding declaration of the power of God’s mercy, Bishop Hilarion stated that God does not make mistakes or create unredeemable trash good only to be thrown away. Though God respects human choice and free will, even when the choice is to reject Him, His love and mercy can forgive literally without exception, “without any blame.”

The Bishop said God’s love flows equally over all creation, animals, man, and angels, as well as everything in between and outside.

Speaking of angels, Bishop Hilarion said, “The providential care of God and His love extends to angels, who were the first product of God’s creative act, including those who had fallen away from God and had turned into demons (my italics). According to [St.] Isaac, the love of the Creator towards fallen angels does not diminish as a result of their fall, and it is no less the fullness of love which He has towards all angels. ‘It would be most odious and utterly blasphemous’ Isaac claims, ‘to think that hate and resentment exists with God, even against demonic beings.'”

To claim that God’s mercy “diminishes or vanishes because of a created being’s fall” involves a human reduction of God’s glorious nature and imposes upon God “weakness and change,” the Bishop said. This would be a perverted creation of God in man’s own sinful image and likeness, a true “blasphemy.”

God, Bishop Hilarion said, contains no hatred or resentment, “no greater or lesser place in his love.” That is the reason we can confidently state, he said, that “God loves equally the righteous and sinners, making no distinction between them. God knew man’s future sinful life before the latter’s creation, yet He created him. God knew all people before [their] becoming righteous or sinners, and in His love He did not change because of the fact that they underwent change.”

Mercy means that all “blameworthy deeds” are forgiven “without any blame.”
Take a look at what the Diary of St. Faustina in number 598 states:

“Oh, how ardently I desire that every soul would praise
Your mercy. Happy is the soul that calls upon the mercy
of the Lord. It will see that the Lord will defend it as His
glory, as He said. And who would dare fight against
God? All you souls, praise the Lord’s mercy (63) by
trusting in His mercy all your life and especially at the
hour of your death. And fear nothing, dear soul,
whoever you are; the greater the sinner, the greater his
right to Your mercy, O Lord. O Incomprehensible
Goodness! God is the first to stoop to the sinner. O Jesus,
I wish to glorify Your mercy on behalf of thousands of
souls. I know very well, O my Jesus, that I am to keep
telling souls about Your goodness, about Your
incomprehensible mercy.”

God is Love, Not an Angry Judge
According to St. Isaac, Bishop Hilarion said, the image of God as Judge “is completely overshadowed by the image of God as Love (hubba) and Mercy (rahme. According to him, mercifulness is incompatible with justice.” Bishop Hilarion said we should not interpret literally the figurative God that the Old Testament describes in anthropomorphic terms such as “wrath, anger, [and] hatred.” He added:

“Rejecting with such decisiveness the idea of requital, Isaac shows that the Old Testament understanding of God as a chastiser of sinners” holding generations of children responsible for familial sins “does not correspond with the revelation that we have received through Christ in the New Testament.” The Bishop said that Christ Himself confirmed the reality that God bears “no hatred towards anyone, [only] all-embracing love, which does not distinguish between righteous and sinner, between a friend of the truth and an enemy of the truth, between angel and demon. Every created being is precious in God’s eyes. He cares for every creature. … If we turn away from God, He does not turn away from us.”

Bishop Hilarion termed the Incarnation the moment when the love of God “revealed itself to the highest degree.” He said people “are called to answer the love of God with their own love” as best the can, but that the return love by humans to God on earth will always be less than perfect. God understands that, and, according to the Bishop, this explains how the infinite and perfect God, can forgive our sins. “Here St. Isaac emphasizes that God does nothing out of retribution: even to think that way about God would be blasphemous.”

God as Love Overcomes Gehenna
There is another idea worse than that, Bishop Hilarion said, again, referring to St. Isaac’s teachings.

“Even worse,” the Bishop said, “is the opinion that God allows people to lead a sinful life on earth in order to punish them eternally after death. This is a blasphemous and perverted understanding of God, a calumny of God.” To the contrary, from the first created angels to the present moment, God’s love drives the universe, which, according to the Bishop, leads to St. Isaac’s most important idea about Divine Mercy: “that the final destiny of the history of the universe must correspond to the majesty of God, and that the final destiny of humans should be worthy of God’s mercifulness.” This majesty may even modify Gehenna or hell itself, he said.

Bishop Hilarion then quoted St. Iassac on “the difficult matter of Gehenna’s torment”:

It is not the way of the compassionate Maker to create rational beings in order to deliver them over mercilessly to unending affliction in punishment for things of which He knew even before they were fashioned … [A]ll the more since the foreplanning of evil and the taking of vengeance are characteristic of the passions of created brings, and do not belong to the Creator. For all this characterizes people who do not know or who are unaware of what they are doing.

The standard objection to this line of thought is that the conception of such a merciful God leads to laxity in people or a loss of the fear of God, the Bishop noted. But, he said, the opposite is true. Saint Isaac believed that knowing the merciful God in this way would cause more love of God in people, not less. When that happens, people will realize “the measureless mercy of the Creator.”

Again, Bishop Hilarion emphasized, if we say otherwise, we attribute to God’s actions; a pettiness and weakness that is ours, not His. We should cease speaking of a God of retribution, Bishop Hilarion said, and focus on God’s “fatherly provision, a wise dispensation, a perfect will which is concerned with the requiting of former things by means of … complete love.”

The Mystery of Hell Leading to Heaven
The Bishop continued:

All of God’s actions are mysteries that are inaccessible to human reasoning. Gehenna is also a mystery, created in order to bring to a state of perfection those who had not reached it during their lifetime. … Thus, Gehenna is a sort of purgatory rather than hell. It is conceived and established for the salvation of both human beings and angels. … According to Isaac, all those who have fallen away from God will eventually return to Him because of the temporary and short torment in Gehenna that is prepared for them in order that they purify themselves through the fire of suffering and repentance.

Hell, therefore, according to Bishop Hilarion, is transitory. Once more, he emphasized that this is the logical conclusion that is derived once we establish the major premise that above all, God is Love, and that He is unlimited mercy. He said that God established the Kingdom of heaven for all created beings, “even though an intervening time is reserved for the general raising of all to the same [heavenly] level. And we say this that we too may concur with the magisterial teaching of Scripture.” Such an understanding of Divine Mercy will cause people to love God more and not less.

Divine Mercy shows us God’s full love, and for that reason, Bishop Hilarion said, St. Isaac “was quite resentful of the widespread opinion that the majority of people will be punished in hell, and only a small group of the chosen will delight in Paradise. He is convinced that, quite the contrary, the majority of people will find themselves in the Kingdom of heaven, and only a few sinners will go to Gehenna, and even they only for the period of time which is necessary for their repentance and remission of sins.”

In this way, the first World Congress on Divine Mercy had found its electric moment.

An Improvisation for the Ages
In an impromptu discussion afterward between Cardinal Christoph Shonborn, Archbishop of Austria, and Bishop Hilarion, the Cardinal expressed his deep thanks to his Orthodox counterpart for his “courageous teaching” on the depth of God’s mercy. Asked by this reporter if he found anything that he could not accept about Bishop Hilarion’s remarks, Cardinal Schonborn said, “Nothing at all, because as the Bishop said, all creation falls under the care of The Divine Mercy.”

Thus, in an amazing ecumenical moment, unqualified Divine Mercy washed over this Congress. Cardinal Schonborn and Bishop Hilarion agreed that St. Issac’s teachings were not well known by most Catholics, but the Cardinal said this doesn’t mean that we cannot “share our understanding of God’s limitless love.” Asked point blank if he could accept the idea that God’s love can make even hell temporary, the Cardinal responded, “How can there be a problem with any proposition that presents The Divine Mercy as the limitless manifestation of Love? I welcome and learn from [Bishop Hilarion’s] teaching.” **

Those standing around to witness this incredible moment smiled, and people rushed up to Bishop Hilarion. Cherry Silcock-Stone, a marketing and administrative analyst for Concorde International in Kent, England, was one of those people. With joy in her face, she thanked Bishop Hilarion for his merciful teaching. “You have revealed something so wonderful,” she said.

The World Mercy Congress had just caught fire.

* The Eastern Church holds that two states exist — heaven and hell — and that sanctification is more process-orientated. Thus, hell is where this process takes place. We are in the middle of the process of sanctification at the moment of our deaths, the work of holiness is an eternal one, since God’s holiness is limitless and hence forever beyond us. The Western Church speaks of purgatory as a state where the “residual debt” due to sin is “worked off” before the Second Coming. Both realize the truth of the process of becoming holy by God’s holiness, thus the cleansing “state” is temporary.

** A time of purgation is temporary, yet the time of eternal damnation is a fact of Jesus’ teaching on the Last Judgment (cf. Mt. 25: 31-46). Thus, a need for living mercy day by day (how we show mercy to others) is the basis of salvation or damnation.

Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of “Dan Valenti’s Journal” for thedivinemercy.org.

Saint Faustina’s ‘Remarkable Solution’

Guest speaker Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, explained that the elements of the message of Divine Mercy are necessary to our health and well-being.

What Happens When Divine Mercy and Psychotherapy Meet?

Consider this: Christ told the great prophet of Divine Mercy, St. Maria Faustina, in one of a series of revelations in the 1930s, “Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy” (Diary of St. Faustina, 300).

Now consider this: The revelations of St. Faustina occurred at a time when mankind was just beginning to focus on psychological brokenness.

Now imagine this: What if Divine Mercy and the field of psychotherapy became partners in healing the world?

This isn’t a pipe dream, or the wishful thinking of a bunch of Divine Mercy devotees who are allowing the beauty of the Eternal City or the richness of the Catholic Faith to cloud their good judgment during a five-day congress on mercy. This is actually happening. Today. Right now.

Take it from a Friar, who’s also a psychologist, who’s also a member of the American Psychological Association.

On Day 2 of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Rome, Fr. Benedict Groeschel,CFR, dropped a proverbial bomb, in a talk titled “Brokenness and the Human Person and the Healing Power of God’s Mercy,” to a packed audience at Our Lady of Angels in Rome. He declared that a “simple peasant girl” from Poland named Helen Kowalska, now known to the world as St. Faustina (1905-38), made “a remarkable contribution to the new solution” to the problems that plague humanity.

He traced the arc of the field of psychotherapy in the 20th century and spoke of the “astounding … almost miraculous” changes now afoot, changes which “fit in with Divine Mercy.”

In a nutshell: Love, forgiveness, and mercy, all touchstones of the message of Divine Mercy, are not only good traits to have and to practice, but they prove necessary to our health and well-being.

But let’s back up. In the 1980s, the first great crop of psychologists and psychiatrists began retiring. These were the men and women who spent careers treating depression, anxiety, self-hate, guilt, fear, and other problems. One of them, a Jewish psychologist named Dr. Allen Beck, asked the question, “Did we do anything? Did anyone get better?”

“The question contained the answer,” said Fr. Groeschel, “and the answer was, ‘We didn’t do very much.’

“I was aware of this when I was studying psychology at Columbia,” said Fr. Groeschel. “I said to myself, the purpose [of psychotherapy] seems to be to bring people from misery to mere unhappiness. The goal was unhappiness. In the psychiatric world, if you’re really happy, they think you’re nuts.”

For years, the treatment, he said, focused on guilt, anxiety, self-hate, hostility, but Dr. Beck asked, “Why don’t we straighten out our thinking?” Before this time, most in the field followed more or less the theories of Sigmund Freud, an atheist. His method, said Fr. Groeschel, was to “get rid of your repressed feelings, especially your repressed hatred of your mother and father. That was the big theory. Freud did hate his mother and father, but that didn’t mean everybody else did. Beck said straighten out your feelings.”

After that, said Fr. Groeschel, another psychologist, Dr. Martin Seligman, got an incredible realization. Seligman was president of the American Psychological Association, “the most unreligious organization this side of the Russian Secret Police,” said Fr. Groeschel. One morning, Seligman’s young daughter spilled a glass of orange juice, and, as the story goes, Seligman yelled at her, “Why don’t you be careful!” His daughter responded, “Why don’t you be nice?”

Her response startled him. Seligman thought, “Be kind. Be nice.”

From that event sprung a whole new reform of modern psychotherapy called “Positive Psychology,” the psychology of virtue.

And until that point, the word virtue “hadn’t been heard in a hundred years” in the field of psychotherapy, said Fr. Groeschel. “The theory was that people, in order to get better, need to practice the certain virtues that are lacking in their lives,” he said.

Virtues such as forgiveness, love, and mercy.

Now, consider the Diary of St. Faustina, where she recorded her mystical experiences with Christ. In it, this uneducated Polish nun provides a veritable prescription for the age. At one point, she includes what she calls conversations of a Merciful God with a sinful soul, a despairing soul, a suffering soul, and a soul striving after perfection. For instance, one section reads:

Soul: Lord, I doubt that You will pardon my numerous sins; my misery fills me with fright.

Jesus: My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of My goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed Myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let My Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy. Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give Me pleasure if you hand over to Me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace (1485).

Here, Christ speaks of His forgiveness and of His love, even to the soul on the edge of eternal damnation. He’s the source for healing.

“It’s an immensely powerful instance of Divine Mercy,” said Fr. Groeschel, “a powerful message speaking to self-hate, anxiety, to fear, to all of the things that lead people to neurosis. Saint Faustina’s revelations dovetail with the new Positive Psychology of Dr. Seligman, and Seligman would not deny this. I’ve been in correspondence with him.”

“Can you see how Divine Mercy will come together in all this?” he asked.

With that in mind, the words in 2002 of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II could not have been clearer as to why this message is so urgent — psychologically and spiritually.

“Like St. Faustina,” the Holy Father said, “we wish to proclaim that, apart from the mercy of God, there is no other source of hope for mankind. We desire to repeat with faith: Jesus, I trust in You. This proclamation of trust in the all-powerful love of God, is especially necessary in our own times, when mankind is experiencing bewilderment in the face of many manifestations of evil.”

Love at Its Deepest Level

Personal experiences with representatives of other religions punctuated Philippe Cardinal Barbarin’s address at the Mercy Congress.

Cardinal Barbarin Addresses the Urgency of Intereligious Dialogue

By Dan Valenti (Apr 3, 2008)

Since the first strategic planning session of the World Mercy Congress began, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue have loomed large on the agenda. On Day Two of the Congress, April 3, one of the Church’s most passionate advocates of interreligious dialogue, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of France, acknowledged the immense difficulties but held out hope of a breakthrough.

If it is to come, the thrust forward will be provided by a reliance on mercy as common ground.

In an exclusive interview conducted after his talk to a packed St. John Lateran Basilica, Cardinal Barbarin said that mercy is “the next step forward in interreligious dialogue. Mercy is [something] all people share. This is God’s greatest gift to us, and it provides a realistic hope that we can begin to work more closely together. But it won’t be easy. There are significant differences that can’t be ignored. Speaking for the Church, we must work harder to reduce our ignorance of other faiths.”

When asked how religious leaders can come together to move forward and avoid an impasse or even a step backward, Cardinal Barbarin said, “We must realize that in mercy, we can converse in a common language. Mercy is spirituality’s ‘universal translator.’ Who does not want to be loved or forgiven? This is common to all people, because we all experience our brokenness in life. Sooner or later, we realize our helplessness without God. So those of us who are serious about reaching accord with our brothers and sisters of other faiths must proceed from there.”

Speaking to this correspondent and otherwise standing alone at the center of the ancient basilica’s reflectory, Cardinal Barbarin warmed to the topic, speaking with deliberation and passion. A few yards away, within the walls of the former Seat of Peter and now Basilica of Rome — the Pope’s “Church” — about 8,000 pilgrims and congressional attendees milled about. The Cardinal had just given his formal presentation on the topic, “Interreligious dialogues drawn by The Divine Mercy.”

Reliance on mercy as the basis for interreligious communication, Cardinal Barbarin said, is “how we can progress together. We must have the honesty and openness to share our stories and realize that no matter what our differences, they are greater in our eyes than in God’s. Despite the things that keep us apart, the truth is that we have only one God, the God of all who is in all. Really, we all experience the same God, though often in far different ways. These differences are caused by the consequences of human living, factors such as culture, societal moirés, separate histories, and so forth.

“But if we stop reverting to history, which often contains the source of deep hostility toward one another, we can change our focus. As we do this, though, we must not get too far ahead of ourselves, for that throws us into the future, which we cannot know and for us does not exist. Our focus should be on the ‘now.’ The moment — that is where we find God. Whoever finds the true God finds the secret to the mystery of our commonality as His spiritual sons and daughters.”

Cardinal Barbarin said he had great hope that the “mutual reality of Divine Mercy” would unlock our hearts. If this happens, he said, people would first come to respect one another. Respect, he said, must happen before anything else in trying to establish communication.

“Without respect, there is inhumanity,” Cardinal Barbarin said. “With inhumanity, we begin to objectify the ‘other.’ That presents too great a temptation to exploit others through our selfishness, greed, and a desire for things like money and power. That is what history teaches. But once we can reach mutual respect, this condition changes. From respect, we can progress to caring interest in each other and from there to love. Actually, we don’t do this at all, but it is God who works through us.”

Once love enters the picture, the Cardinal asked, “What is not possible? Regarding those who are on a different path than us, it may seem that we are trying to do the impossible. This is not so, and even if it were, what is the problem? Why should we fear this? We are with God, and with God, everything is possible.”

In his formal remarks to the Congress, Cardinal Barbarin talked about a journey he made in February 2007 with his Muslim counterparts to the Monastery of Tibhirine in Algeria to visit the site where seven Catholic monks were martyred in 1997 by radical Muslims. Their severed heads were put in plastic bags and hung from trees.

The Cardinal accepted the invitation from the Islamic community to participate in a healing service ten years after the grisly event. He said, “We went not to seek mercy for the dead, for they were with God. We wanted to invoke mercy for the killers, who were all still alive.”

Cardinal Barbarin said that “after we returned from that trip, I found that I was praying in a different way. Why? I think it was because I had experienced the deeper truth of God.”

Cardinal Barbarin noted that in his country, France, people often seem afraid to use the word “mercy.” “That word is avoided,” he said. “It is not employed. [My country] uses the word ‘love.’ The Jewish people and Islam, on the other hand, speak freely of God’s mercy. Muslims center on Allah’s great mercy. In fact, a Muslim invokes God’s mercy 17 times in daily prayer.

The Cardinal said that in proceeding along the road to greater interreligious dialogue, bumps even hazards invariably occur. These take the form of tough questions. “One question I advanced to my Muslim brothers, I asked on behalf of many. It was a question I had never dared to ask. I asked why does the Koran seem to require the death of someone who converts to Christianity?”

There was no easy answer forthcoming, Cardinal Barbarin said, for there are never easy answers to the difficult questions that arise in such dialogue. He said his Muslim friends responded that the Koran does not teach killing but first mercy. The contradiction, they said, could only be explained by an inaccurate interpretation of Islam’s holiest book.

Two of the questions his Muslims brothers asked him dealt with “disconnects” between official teaching and actual practice. They asked him, for example, why so many Catholics ignore the Church’s teaching on contraception. They also asked him to explain the Trinity. Again, he offered no easy answers.

“I told them, ‘I cannot explain the Trinity’ … but then I tried to explain. I told them that we [Christians] believe in one God and that the Holy Spirit is the circulation of love between the Father and the Son. [I also said that] God is not monolithic and unchangeable, like a huge block of concrete, but that God is fluid and dynamic. God is love, and love is dynamic. The different Persons of God represent His qualities as they manifest themselves through human experience and perception. I said we can sum up God as love, mercy, and compassion, in other words, goodness.”

Cardinal Barbarin said he is committed to keeping strong lines of communication open to other faiths and said that in his visit to the Monastery in Tibhirine, “We started a dialogue, which we consciously based in God’s mercy.” That dialogue has and will continue, he promised, regardless of what twists and turns politics and world events might throw in the way.

“We often have feelings which disturb us,” the Cardinal said, “because we are not doing what God is asking of us. This happens to all peoples of all faiths. Today, God is asking us to come together as brothers and sisters in love.”

What is the alternative, he asked? Basically, Cardinal Barbarin said, we have two choices: we can run away because the road is too difficult, or we can move forward as best we can. He said he and the Church have chosen to move forward.

“Who is going to be the one to take the initiative? How are we going to implement all of [the ideas that come forth from interreligious dialogue]? It is true we will encounter difficulty, but we have no choice but to continue along on the path. This is the only way we can be witnesses of mercy, which is the true presence of God in the heart of man.

“It is not enough to tolerate the present situation,” the Cardinal said. “That which separates us from our brothers and sisters of other faiths can be removed only by experiencing the one, true, living God.”

To move forward in this “courageous” undertaking, Cardinal Barbarin said, “is to engage in love at its deepest level. We cannot be afraid of life. We cannot be afraid to love.”

The Congress Convenes!

By Felix Carroll (Apr 3, 2008)
If there was any confusion at all about the focus of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, Pope Benedict XVI quickly dispelled it during the opening Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday morning.

The first-ever congress on mercy would focus not on mercy in general, but Divine Mercy specifically. The Holy Father himself referred to the Congress as the “World Apostolic Congress on Divine Mercy.”

It’s not just a matter of semantics. The message of Divine Mercy, as revealed to St. Faustina in the 1930s, sheds light on the nature of God as Merciful Father. It calls on the world to trust in Jesus, to receive His mercy, and to share that mercy with the world through our actions. It’s a message that Pope John Paul II believed was particularly suited to our times.

In his homily, delivered before more than 40,000 people, Pope Benedict XVI set the stage for the five-day world congress, tying it in with the Pontificate of John Paul II, known as the “Great Mercy Pope,” who tirelessly promoted the message of God’s mercy and who canonized St. Faustina, whose revelations have sparked the modern Divine Mercy movement.

“In fact, only Divine Mercy is capable of limiting evil; only God’s all-powerful love can overcome the arrogance of the wicked, and the destructive power of selfishness and hatred,” the Holy Father said in his homily.

The opening Mass was celebrated for the soul of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, on the third anniversary of the Polish Pontiff’s death. Pope John Paul II spoke of Divine Mercy as his special calling as Pope.

“I direct a particular thought to the participants of the first World Congress on Divine Mercy, which begins today and which intends to delve more deeply into [Pope John Paul’s] rich magisterium on this subject,” Pope Benedict said. “The message of God, he himself said, is a key to the privileged reading of his pontificate. He wanted the message of the merciful love of God to reach all humanity, and he exhorted the faithful to be witnesses of it. For this reason, he wished to elevate to the honor of the altars Sr. Faustina Kowalska, the humble sister who became, by a mysterious divine design, a prophetic messenger of Divine Mercy.

“Servant of God John Paul II personally knew and experienced the immense tragedies of the 20th century, and for a long time he asked himself what could stem the tide of evil. The answer could not but be in the love of God.”

Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, who served as vice-postulator for St. Faustina’s canonization cause, called the opening Mass “astounding” — not only because it echoed Pope John Paul’s exhortation that Divine Mercy is the message for our times, but because so many people in the square were clearly drawn by their love for the message and devotion of Divine Mercy.

Indeed, many carried Divine Mercy images and pictures of St. Faustina. And when the words in Italian for “Divine Mercy” were spoken in the Holy Father’s homily, the crowd cheered.

“It shows how universal the acceptance of this message is,” said Fr. Seraphim. “It’s vastly greater than people can imagine.”

The aim of the five-day congress is to bring the message of mercy into the daily life of the Church and the world. About 200 delegations from around the world, including clergy and laity and people of other faiths, are taking part. Throughout the week, the congress is featuring prayer, plenary sessions, ecumenical testimonies and evangelization throughout Rome.

Susan Wilson, a member of a Divine Mercy cenacle in Salem, Oregon, was drawn to the congress after she experienced a conversion in 2000, on the day of St. Faustina’s canonization.

“I believe this congress is the second most important event in human history, second to the Paschal Mystery of Christ,” she said. “From this point on we are all being called to spread the message of Divine Mercy. We’ll be heralds of His Second Coming, as St. Faustina was. This congress launches this message into a world event.”

“It’s such an important event,” said Ellen Jonah of Ghana, who was wearing a dress that had the face of St. Faustina and The Divine Mercy image printed upon it. “There is so much pain in the world, so many families torn apart. We’ve come here to learn more about Divine Mercy so that we can bring the message back to our communities.”

“We’re those vessels of mercy that are being filled up this week so that we may bring it back and share God’s mercy with all,” said Lee Bowers of Texas.

“Christ came and gave a human face to God’s mercy,” said Olga Blake, a nurse from Bronx, N.Y., who is participating in the congress. “So we must take that mercy and, in turn, be merciful to others. This is the only way the world will heal itself.”

In his homily, the Holy Father asked John Paul II “to continue to intercede from heaven for each of us, and particularly for me whom Providence has called to take up his priceless spiritual legacy.

“May the Church,” he said, “following his teaching and example, continue in her evangelizing mission faithfully and without compromise, tirelessly spreading Christ’s merciful love, source of true peace for the whole world.”