By CINDY WOODEN, Catholic News Service | Published April 14, 2016
VATICAN CITY (CNS)—Pope Francis asked Catholic dioceses around the world to set up a permanent memorial of the Year of Mercy by establishing a hospital, home for the aged or school in an under-served area.
Celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday with an evening prayer vigil April 2 and a morning Mass April 3, the pope said the idea came to him during a meeting with a charitable organization and he decided to mention it at the vigil with participants of the European gathering of the World Apostolic Congress of Mercy and followers of the Divine Mercy devotion.
“As a reminder, a ‘monument’ let’s say, to this Year of Mercy, how beautiful it would be if in every diocese there were a structural work of mercy: a hospital, a home for the aged or abandoned children, a school where there isn’t one, a home for recovering drug addicts—so many things could be done,” the pope said.
“Let’s think about it and speak with the bishops,” the pope told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet of St. Faustina Kowalska, and also to remember St. John Paul II, who promoted the devotion and died April 2, 2005.
Churches in Europe asked to help Ukrainian people
Reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer at the end of Mass the next day, Pope Francis said the Divine Mercy Sunday celebration was “like the heart of the Year of Mercy,” and he announced that Catholic parishes throughout Europe would be asked to take up a special collection April 24 as a sign of closeness and solidarity with people suffering because of the war in Eastern Ukraine.
The war has caused thousands of deaths and forced more than 1 million people to flee their homes, he said. Pope Francis prayed that the collection, a sign of solidarity and closeness, “could help, without further delay, promote peace and respect for the law in that harshly tried land.”
The more one receives mercy, Pope Francis said at the vigil April 2, “the more we are called to share it with others; it cannot be kept hidden or kept only for ourselves.”
God’s mercy should drive people to love others, “recognizing the face of Jesus Christ above all in those who are most distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalized,” he said.
“It pains the heart” when people talk about refugees and say, “Let’s throw them out,” or speak about the poor and say, “Let them sleep on the street,” the pope said. “Is this of Jesus?”
Reflecting on the Gospel account of Thomas, who came to faith in the risen Lord when he was able to put his hands in Jesus’ wounds, Pope Francis said, “a faith incapable of entering the wounds of the Lord is not faith. A faith unable to be merciful as a sign of the merciful wounds of the Lord, is not faith. It’s an idea, an ideology.”
“If we truly want to believe and have faith,” he said, “we must draw near and touch those wounds, caress those wounds, but also lower our heads and let others touch our wounds.”