The Name of God Is Mercy

The Name of God Is Mercy

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Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In his first book published as Pope, and in conjunction with the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis here invites all humanity to an intimate and personal dialogue on the subject closest to his heart—mercy—which has long been the cornerstone of his faith and is now the central teaching of his papacy.

In this conversation with Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli, Francis explains—through memories from his youth and moving anecdotes from his experiences as a pastor—why “mercy is the first attribute of God.” God “does not want anyone to be lost. His mercy is infinitely greater than our sins,” he writes. As well, the Church cannot close the door on anyone, Francis asserts—on the contrary, its duty is to go out into the world to find its way into the consciousness of people so that they can assume responsibility for, and move away from, the bad things they have done.

The first Jesuit and the first South American to be elected Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis has traveled around the world spreading God’s message of mercy to the largest crowds in papal history. Clear and profound, The Name of God Is Mercy resonates with this desire to reach all those who are looking for meaning in life, a road to peace and reconciliation, and the healing of physical and spiritual wounds. It is being published in more than eighty countries around the world.

“The name of God is mercy. There are no situations we cannot get out of, we are not condemned to sink into quicksand.”—Pope Francis

Praise for The Name of God Is Mercy

“Francis speaks succinctly—and with refreshing forthrightness. . . . He emphasizes moral sincerity over dogma, an understanding of the complexities of the world and individual experience over rigid doctrine. . . . The pope has an easy conversational style that moves effortlessly between folksy sayings and erudite allusions, between common-sense logic and impassioned philosophical insights.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“What makes his book most moving is the way in which this man, without disrespecting his own privacy or offering false bromides of modesty, opens the sacred space of his conscience to explain how he came to center his ministry, and now his papacy, around mercy.”—James Carroll, The New Yorker

“As he has done throughout his papacy, Pope Francis shows in this book a compelling way to present God’s love anew to a skeptical world without denying the ancient teachings of faith. But now he is challenging the entire Church to trek a new way forward.”Time

“Francis enjoys sharing personal stories of God’s grace and mercy in the lives of parishioners from his native Argentina, people he has known and who have recognized themselves as sinners.”The Washington Post

“Powerful . . . Francis’s book signals a plea for a change of attitude on the part of the faithful and their pastors. . . . Bishops and priests will talk and quarrel over the text for months, even years to come. And that, perhaps, is what Francis intends.”Financial Times

“Deepens his calls for a more merciful Catholic Church . . . The question-and-answer book is told in simple, breezy language, with the pope referring to experiences and people in his own life.”Newsday

“Francis has offered his most detailed outline yet for the role of the Catholic church in the modern era.”National Catholic Reporter

Translated by Oonagh Stransky 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399588631
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/12/2016
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 207,010
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Pope Francis
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936. On March 13, 2013, he became the Bishop of Rome and the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. On March 13, 2015, he announced his Holy Year of Mercy, which will begin on December 8, 2015, and end on November 20, 2016.
 
Andrea Tornielli is a veteran Vatican reporter, correspondent for La Stampa, and director of the Vatican Insider website. He also writes for a variety of Italian and international magazines. His publications include the first biography of the Pope, Francis: Pope of a New World, which was translated into sixteen languages, and This Economy Kills: Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice, which was translated into nine languages.

Read an Excerpt

I

a Time for Mercy

Holy Father, can you tell us how the desire to proclaim a Holy Year of Mercy was born? Where did the inspiration come from?

There was no particular or defining moment. Things come to me by themselves, they are the ways of the Lord, and they are preserved in prayer. I am inclined never to trust my first reaction to an idea or to a proposal that is made to me. I never trust myself in part because my first reaction is usually wrong. I have learned to wait, to trust in the Lord, to ask for his help, so I can discern better and receive guidance.

I can say that the centrality of mercy, which for me is Jesus’ most important message, has slowly evolved over the years in my work as a priest, as a consequence of my experience as a confessor, and thanks to the many positive and beautiful stories that I have known.

As early as July 2013, only a few months after being named Pope, when you were returning from Rio de Janeiro, where the World Day of Youth had been celebrated, you said that ours is a time of mercy.

Yes, I believe that this is an age of mercy. The Church is showing her maternal side, her motherly face, to a humanity that is wounded. She does not wait for the wounded to knock on her doors, she looks for them on the streets, she gathers them in, she embraces them, she takes care of them, she makes them feel loved. And so, as I said, and I am ever more convinced of it, this is a kairós, our era is a kairós of mercy, an opportune time. When John XXIII solemnly opened the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, he said, “The Bride of Christ prefers to use the medicine of mercy rather than arm herself with the weapons of rigor.” In his meditation “Thoughts on Death,” the blessed Paul VI revealed the essence of his spiritual life in the synthesis proposed by Saint Augustine: poverty and mercy. “My poverty—Pope Montini wrote—the mercy of God. That I may at least honor who you are, God of infinite bounty, invoking, accepting, and celebrating your sweet mercy.” Saint John Paul II took the notion further with his encyclical Dives in Misericordia, in which he affirmed that the Church lives an authentic life when it professes and proclaims mercy, the most amazing attribute of the Creator and Redemptor, and when it leads humanity to the font of mercy. In addition, he instituted the festivity of Holy Mercy, endorsed the figure of Saint Faustina Kowalska, and focused on Jesus’ words on mercy. Even Pope Benedict XVI also spoke of this in his teachings: “Mercy is in reality the core of the Gospel message; it is the name of God himself, the face with which he revealed himself in the Old Testament and fully in Jesus Christ, incarnation of Creative and Redemptive Love. This love of mercy also illuminates the face of the Church, and is manifested through via the Sacraments, in particular that of the Reconciliation, as well as in works of charity, both of community and individuals. Everything that the Church says and does shows that God has mercy for man.”

I also have many personal memories of other episodes related to the subject. For example, before coming here, when I was in Buenos Aires, I specifically recall a roundtable discussion with theologians. The topic was what the Pope could do to bring people closer together; we were faced with so many problems that there seemed to be no solution. One of the participants suggested “a Holy Year of forgiveness.” This idea stayed with me. And therefore, to answer your question, I believe that the decision came through prayer, through reflection on the teachings and declarations of the Popes who preceded me, and by thinking of the Church as a field hospital, where treatment is given above all to those who are most wounded. A Church that warms people’s hearts with its closeness and nearness.

What is mercy for you?

Etymologically, “mercy” derives from misericordis, which means opening one’s heart to wretchedness. And immediately we go to the Lord: mercy is the divine which embraces attitude, it is God’s giving himself to us, accepting us, and bowing to forgive. Jesus said he came not for those who were good but for the sinners. He did not come for the healthy, who do not need the doctor, but for the sick. For this reason, we can say that mercy is God’s identity card. God of Mercy, merciful God. For me, this really is the Lord’s identity. I was always impressed by the story of Jerusalem as it is told in chapter 16 of the Book of Ezekiel. The story compares Jerusalem to a little girl whose umbilical cord wasn’t cut, who was left in her blood and was cast out. God saw her wallowing in blood, he washed the blood from her, he anointed her, he dressed her, and when she grew up he adorned her with silk and jewels. But she, infatuated with her own beauty, became a harlot, not for money but paying her lovers herself. God, however, will never forget his covenant and he will place her above her sisters so that Jerusalem will remember and be ashamed (Ezekiel 16:63), when she is forgiven for what she has done.

For me this is one of the most important revelations: you will continue to be the chosen people and all your sins will be forgiven. So mercy is deeply connected to God’s faithfulness. The Lord is faithful because he cannot deny himself. This is explained well by Saint Paul in the Second Letter to Timothy: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” You can deny God, you can sin against him, but God cannot deny himself. He remains faithful.

What place and meaning do mercy have in your heart, life, and personal history? Do you remember your first experience of mercy as a child?

I can read my life in light of chapter 16 of the book of the prophet Ezekiel. I read those pages and I say: everything here seems written just for me. The prophet speaks of shame, and shame is a grace: when one feels the mercy of God, he feels a great shame for himself and for his sin. There is a beautiful essay by a great scholar of spirituality, Father Gaston Fessard, on the subject of shame in his book The Dialectic of the “Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Shame is one of the graces that Saint Ignatius asks for during his confession of his sins before Christ crucified. That text from Ezekiel teaches us to be ashamed, it shows us how to feel shame: with all our history of wretchedness and sin, God remains faithful and raises us up. I feel this. I don’t have any particular memories of mercy as a young child. But I do as a young man. I think of Father Carlos Duarte Ibarra, the confessor I met in my parish church on September 21, 1953, the day the Church celebrated Saint Matthew the apostle and Evangelist. I was seventeen years old. On confessing to him, I felt welcomed by the mercy of God. Ibarra was originally from Corrientes but was in Buenos Aires to receive treatment for leukemia. He died the following year. I still remember how when I got home, after his funeral and burial, I felt as though I had been abandoned. And I cried a lot that night, really a lot, and hid in my room. Why? Because I had lost a person who helped me feel the mercy of God, a person who helped me understand the expression miserando atque eligendo, an expression I didn’t know at the time but which I would eventually choose as my episcopal motto. I learned about it later, from the homilies of the English monk Venerable Bede. When describing the calling of Matthew, he writes: “Jesus saw the tax collector, and by having mercy chose him as an Apostle, saying to him, ‘Follow me.’ ” This is the translation commonly given for the words of Saint Bede. I like to translate miserando with another gerund that doesn’t exist: mercifying. So, “mercifying and choosing” describes the vision of Jesus, who gives the gift of mercy and chooses, and takes unto himself.

Table of Contents

To the Reader: Francis's Vision ix

I A Time for Mercy 3

II The Gift of Confession 27

III Looking For the Smallest Opening 41

IV A Sinner, Like Simon Peter 51

V Too Much Mercy? 65

VI Shepherds, Not Scholars of the Law 75

VII Sinners Yes, Corrupt No 105

VIII Mercy and Compassion 125

IX Living the Holy Year of Mercy 133

Appendix: Misericordiae Vultus: Bull of Induction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy 141

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