Addressing participants in the plenary meeting of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith on Friday, Pope Francis outlined the fundamental importance of all the works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. He further urged the faithful to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
“Mercy is the foundation of the life of the Church: the first truth of the Church, indeed, is Christ’s love. we will be asked if we have given food to the hungry and given the thirsty water to drink, we will also be asked “if we have helped people to set their doubts aside, if we have committed ourselves to welcoming sinners, admonishing them and correcting them, if we have been able to combat ignorance, especially in relation to the Christian faith and the righteous life.”
The works of mercy, the Pope said, are how Christians are to concretely carry out “the spirit of mercy,” adding that they are important, and not merely a devotion.
He expressed disappointment about few Catholics knew very little about the works of mercy. Citing an experience that happened sometime during one of his crowded audiences in the Paul VI Hall, he said:
“I stopped and I asked the question: ‘Which of you remember well what are the spiritual and corporal works of mercy? Those who remember, raise your hand.’ Not more than 20 in a hall of 7,000. We must continue to teach the faithful these things, which are so important.”
Pope Francis then reflected on how mercy relates to the tasks undertaken by the CDF, saying, “In faith and in charity a cognitive and unifying relationship is established with the mystery of Love, which is God himself. The effective mercy of God became, in Jesus, affective mercy, as he made himself man for the salvation of men.”
“The task entrusted to your dicastery here finds its ultimate foundation and adequate justification. Christian faith, indeed, is not only knowledge to be committed to memory, but also truth to live in love. Therefore, along with the doctrine of the faith, it is also necessary to safeguard the integrity of customs, particularly in the most delicate areas of life. Adhering to faith in the person of Christ implies both an act of reason and a moral response to his gift. In this respect, I thank you for all your commitment and the responsibility you exercise in treating cases of abuse of minors by clerics.”
“In faith and in charity a cognitive and unifying relationship is established with the mystery of Love, which is God Himself. The effective mercy of God became, in Jesus, affective mercy, as He made Himself man for the salvation of mankind. The task entrusted to your Dicastery here finds its ultimate foundation and and adequate justification. Christian faith, indeed, is not only knowledge to be committed to memory, but also truth to live in love.
Praising the efforts of those who work with the CDF, he commended their efforts in investigating cases involving sex abuse of minors by members of the Catholic clergy. Mentioning in particular their role in a meeting between the congregation and the Doctrinal Commissions of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe.
That meeting, the Pope said, contributed to “stirring up in the faithful a new missionary impulse and greater openness to the transcendent dimension of life, without which Europe runs the risk of losing that humanist spirit which it nevertheless loves and defends.”
“I invite you to continue and to intensify your collaboration with these advisory bodies that assist episcopal conferences and individual bishops in their solicitude for sound doctrine, in a time of rapid change and growing complexity of problems.”
Pope Francis ended his address by reassuring them of his thoughts and prayers.