Pope Francis: The Name Of God Is Mercy
Author: Andrea Tornielli
Publisher: Random House, nonfiction
On March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, following the historic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI – the first pope to resign since 1415.
Upon his election, the new Pope took the name “Francis”, paying homage to the 12th century friar St Francis of Assisi whose ministry was defined by poverty and humility. Pope Francis held the saint as an example as he called for a Church that “is poor and for the poor”.
It’s fair to say that recent times have not been easy for the Catholic Church. Blighted by scandal centring on financial affairs and pastoral care, the eyes of the world – particularly those of the 1.2 billion Catholics under his charge – have been fixed firmly on the current pope whose mission, it seems, has been to take the Church back to basics as he exemplifies the practice of Christian compassion, love and forgiveness.
You might be forgiven for thinking that there’s little to be impressed about a pope that espouses Christian traits.
However, Pope Francis has been all too aware that, more often than not, the Catholic Church has been synonymous with judgement, superiority and opulence – associations Francis has moved quickly to end.
Shunning residence in the magnificent Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City, Pope Francis occupies a bedroom in the
Domus Sanctae Marthae, furnished with basic necessities. He has implored members of the Vatican to be more hands-on with the sick and the poor, celebrated Holy Thursday in 2015 by washing the feet of 12 inmates in a Rome prison, and has used a number of sermons to remind church members to pay attention to “the beam that is in thine own eye” in a call to judge less and offer more compassion towards others.
It is apt, then, that this Holy Year of Mercy sees the release of Pope Francis: The Name Of God Is Mercy, a book based on the Pope’s conversations with Vatican journalist, Andrea Tornielli.
This slim volume of 150 pages reflects the clarity and frankness of the Pope’s style of communication. Indeed, one of the most striking aspects that come from the insights of Pope Francis is his awareness that many believers have lost faith in the possibility of mercy, thanks to a society that he says has created “the globalisation of indifference”.
In the simplest terms, Pope Francis spends time explaining exactly what mercy is, telling us that it is “the divine attitude which embraces, it is God giving himself to us, and bowing to forgive. Jesus said that he came not for those who were good but for the sinners. He did not come for the healthy, who do not need a doctor, but for the sick.”
Throughout the book, it’s clear to see the pains Pope Francis goes to in order to deliver the central message of Christ’s teachings. He describes himself as a sinner, and addresses controversial issues that remain close to his heart, such as homosexuality and divorce (he talks in the book about his divorced and remarried niece).
For Francis, there is no such thing as “too much mercy” – a criticism levied at his time in office by some who prefer the Papal office take a more institutional approach. He recalls that, “…when Peter asked how many times he should forgive someone, Jesus said, not seven times but seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22), or in other words, always”.
There is no question that, for Francis, the role of mercy serves as a central tenet alongside love and forgiveness in the Christian message. In a word of warning to those who might incline still towards judgement and damnation of perceived sinners, he quotes the mystic St John of the Cross who said, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone”.
In his own words, Francis that, “Caring for outcasts and sinners does not mean letting the wolves attack the flock. It means trying to reach everyone by sharing the experience of mercy, which we ourselves have experienced, without ever caving in to the temptation of feeling that we are just or perfect.”
Wise words, indeed. It’s not hard to see why Pope Francis has been hailed as a breath of fresh air by members of the Catholic Church who have sought a new direction for an institution that has been described by some as having been out of touch for some time.
Of course, Francis has his critics among the conservative traditionalists in the Church, but his Papacy has served as a timely reminder that Jesus himself was the iconoclast of his time, challenging the status quo and never hesitating to break bread with the sinners and offering a hand of mercy to those in need whenever the opportunity arose.
This volume is a gift for both believers and nonbelievers alike, providing a clear lesson in the importance of humility and mercy in a time when, according to Francis, it is most needed. For those unfamiliar with Christian thinking, it offers valuable insights into the tenets of Christianity. For every reader, the book contains an inspiring message of compassion, hope and forgiveness – and that we, as sinners, receive the grace of mercy more often than we might believe.