By Pope Francis (Loyola, 2014)
At the time of Pope Francis’ election, few of the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires’ written works were easily accessible to English-speaking Catholics. Since then, Pope Francis has been quick to make headlines and give interviews. Most of the pope’s words, however—homilies, addresses, and general audiences—rarely get press coverage, even though they paint a far clearer picture of Pope Francis’ vision for the church. Enter The Church of Mercy, a collection of homily-size snippets from a broad range of documents that reveal this pope to be first a pastor—exhorting, encouraging, and engaging his people in the work of the gospel.
“Mercy” is the keynote the book’s editors have chosen to interpret the pope, and there is indeed a marked tone of gentleness. “We hear many offers from the world around us,” Pope Francis writes to those who feel their sins are too great. “But let us take up God’s offer instead: His is a caress of love.”
Yet mercy is only one of many themes; this book’s title could easily have been “the church of mission.” Pope Francis is convinced that without a fearless outward focus the church isn’t fulfilling its mandate: “[The Holy Spirit] impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the gospel,” he writes. Nor does a focus on mercy deprive the pope of an edge: A mere two-paragraph selection on “the cult of the God of money” and the “culture of waste” should be enough to trouble the conscience of any comfortable Christian.
Mercy, mission, and money will certainly be continuing themes of this pope’s teaching, and, while it remains to be seen how the church might change under his leadership, The Church of Mercy gives some clues to where Francis might lead. One hopes the journey will be every bit as surprising and inspired as the choice of leader.
This article appeared in the August 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 79, No. 8, page 43).