CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Pope commissions his Missionaries of Mercy

VATICAN (SE): At a commissioning ceremony on February 9 held at the Vatican for a team of priests from around the world to whom Pope Francis has given the authority to absolve most sins normally reserved to the Holy See, they were told to cover those who come to them with a blanket of mercy.

Known as Missionaries of Mercy, the priests are just one initiative for the Jubilee of Mercy.

Pope Francis said to them, “We are not called to judge with a sense of superiority, as if we were immune from sin; on the contrary, we are called to act as Shem and Japheth, the sons of Noah, who took a blanket and put it over their father and hid his shame.”

He continued, “It is, therefore, not with the club of judgment that we will bring back the lost sheep to the fold, but with the holiness of life which is the principle of renewal and reform in the Church.”

In total, 726 priests of the 1,142 who have been nominated by their bishops and approved by the pope were present at the commissioning ceremony.

Speaking without notes, the pope told them, “To be a Missionary of Mercy is a responsibility that is placed upon you to be the first first-hand witnesses of God’s proximity and of his way of loving—not our way, which is always limited and sometimes contradictory, but his way of loving and forgiving, which is in fact mercy.”

He reminded them that this ministry is a call to express the Church’s motherhood, as it is charged with generating new children in the faith.

He called the Church a mother, because it nourishes the faith and it also offers God’s forgiveness, by regenerating a new life through conversion.

The one representative from Hong Kong present at the commissioning was Father Luigi Bonalumi, from the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions. He described his commission as being one of the pope’s ways of using every possible means to touch those who are farthest away.

Although he confessed to AsiaNews that he does not speak Mandarin, Missionaries of Mercy are expected to travel when necessary and there are other dioceses in the world where Mandarin is widely spoken—which is less true of Cantonese.

Although initially some discussion revolved around whether bishops in China and the St. Pius X Society, who have been ordained without permission from the Holy See or been involved in ordaining another priest as a bishop without the mandate, could avail of the services of the missionaries, they are not included on the list of sins which the missionaries can absolve.

There are four sins for which Canon Law reserves absolution to the Holy See; physically attacking the pope, a priest absolving a sin against the sixth commandment in which he was an accomplice, ordaining a bishop without a pontifical mandate and violating the sacramental seal of confession.

In addition, there are two others; ordaining a woman a priest, which comes from a decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and violating the oath of secrecy of the conclave electing a pope, as decided by Pope Benedict XVI.

However, a letter distributed to the missionaries only lists four that they can absolve; the illicit ordination of bishops and the two sins not described in Canon Law are not included in the special faculty.


Beyond that, other things are included that are reserved in some countries to the bishop of the diocese. Abortion is one. But in Hong Kong and many other countries, all priests have the faculty to absolve this sin.

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