A Priest’s Job: Mercy

Pope Francis celebrates ordination Mass for new priests in St. Peter's Basilica. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)
Pope Francis celebrates ordination Mass for new priests in St. Peter’s Basilica. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)
Earlier this week, Pope Francis ordained 13 new priests, and he took great pains in announcing what he considered their main job to be as clerics: Be merciful.

In his homily, the pope said that he gets upset when he no longer sees people going to confession because people were “scolded” by their confessors, “as if the church doors were closed in their face.”

“Please don’t do this,” the pope told 13 new priests he ordained in the basilica. He used the example of Jesus who never tired of showing mercy to others. Pope Francis said priests should remember that Jesus “didn’t come to condemn but to forgive.” More from Vatican Radio:

He called on the newly ordained to “be aware that you were chosen from among men and established in their favour to attend to the things of God,” to “exercise the priestly work of Christ with joy and sincere charity;” to be intent “on pleasing God, and not yourselves.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily saying, “Have always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to seek and to save those that were lost.”

While Pope Francis has placed mercy in the forefront of his papacy, he wants to make sure that his priests understand that this is a mandate of the faith and not an option. We are a church of forgiveness, after all. It will be interesting to see how the pope continues on this path as more revelations come forward about scandals in the Church.

How forgiving and merciful will the pope be to those who have abused children and to those who have embezzled money? If the pope is ever a hardliner against anything it is surely against those who have harmed the poor in some way.

In the future look for Pope Francis to be very direct with how priests and especially how bishops should act. This may also bear some interesting developments in his assignments of future bishops who are leaders with pastoral sensitivity as opposed to doctrinal hardliners, although that is yet to be seen.