Mercy Seen as Core of Christian Message

Congress to Open on 3rd Anniversary of Polish Pope's Death

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 31, 2008 (Zenit.org).- On the third anniversary of Pope John Paul II's death, the 1st World Congress on Mercy will open in Rome.



In the Vatican press office today, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, Austria, presented the congress, scheduled for April 2-6.

It is a good sign, said Cardinal Schonborn, that the first world congress on mercy should open on April 2, third anniversary of the death of John Paul II, because "that great and unforgettable Pope, from his boyhood on, remained fascinated by the secret of divine mercy. In the year 2002, at the inauguration of a magnificent shrine to divine mercy at Krakow-Lagiewniki, Poland, he said: 'There is no source of hope for human beings, save the mercy of God.'"

Hence "the congress in Rome must clearly show that mercy is the central core of the Christian message," the cardinal said. "This message promotes peace in the world, between peoples and religions. It helps people to discover the true face of God, but also the true face of man and of the Church."

"Many believers," he added, "consider it a special sign that John Paul II died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, which he himself had introduced during the Holy Year 2000, [...] and which is closely associated with the figure of Faustina Kowalska, whom John Paul II proclaimed as a saint on April 30 of that same year."

The archbishop of Vienna recalled how during St. Faustina's life (1905-1938) the message of divine mercy was "a special support and an inexhaustible source of hope [...] for all the Polish people. This message is more necessary than ever in our own times, as the daily news constantly confirms."

"In 2004 John Paul II appealed to the entire Church to be 'witness to mercy,'" said the cardinal. "At the Regina Coeli prayer on April 3, 2005, he would have said: 'Love changes hearts and brings peace. How great is the need for mercy in the world.' Death prevented that great Pope from pronouncing those words, but the message has lost none of its validity or relevance."

Cardinal Schönborn concluded, "The message of John Paul II and of Faustina Kowalska is not some abstract principle, it has a name and a face: Jesus."