Mercy Seen as Key for Interpreting John Paul II

Cardinals Recall Polish Pope's Understanding of Devotion

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Pope John Paul II cannot be understood without understanding the meaning of divine mercy, affirmed two cardinals at the 1st World Apostolic Congress on Mercy.



Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Benedict XVI's vicar for the Diocese of Rome, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, both affirmed this during their addresses Wednesday at the congress.

The experience that John Paul II had of mercy led him to write one of his first encyclicals, "Dives in Misericordia," in 1980, to beatify Sister Faustina Kowalska, the Polish religious who promoted devotion to divine mercy, and to dedicate the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The Polish Pontiff further asked that the Church of the Holy Spirit in Rome, a short distance from the Vatican, would become a sanctuary to divine mercy, and the image of the merciful Jesus revealed to St. Faustina would be venerated there.

Cardinal Ruini affirmed that mercy "is not just any love, but a free, generous one," manifested in the "incarnate Son, dead and risen for us and for our salvation."

Summarizing the thought of John Paul II, Cardinal Ruini confirmed that "the love of God is always stronger than our weaknesses," since "merciful love goes out in search of sinful man and takes him to salvation."

For his part, Cardinal Schönborn recalled how John Paul II died precisely as the feast of Divine Mercy Sunday was beginning.

"It is difficult, or rather impossible, to fail to see in this coincidence a sign from heaven," he affirmed.

"The message of divine mercy […] in a sense forms the image of this pontificate," the cardinal recalled John Paul II saying in 1997 during his trip to the Shrine of Divine Mercy. And it was this devotion that he invoked in addressing the lack of respect for human life, and the hatred and thirst for vengeance prevalent in the world.

The archbishop of Vienna concluded with words from St. Faustina's diary, "Help me, Lord, so that my heart will be merciful in such a way that it participates in all of the sufferings of the others. I will not deny my heart to anyone. I will act sincerely even with those who I know will abuse my goodness; meanwhile I will take refuges in the most merciful heart of Jesus."