Ten years after the election of Pope Francis, it seems appropriate for us to return to one of the pillars of his pontificate: mercy. It can be identified as the “name of God,” but also as God’s “time.” That mercy has been a pillar of his pontificate can be deduced, first of all, from the fact that on the eve of the Fourth Sunday in Lent, at St. Peter’s, on March 13, 2015 – the second anniversary of his election – before an assembly gathered to celebrate a penitential liturgy, Pope Francis announced the proclamation of “an Extraordinary Jubilee that would have at its center the mercy of God.” On the following April 11, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, he proclaimed the Jubilee with the Bull Misericordiae Vultus.
‘Super misericordia et infinita patientia…’
“Behold, this is me: ‘a sinner to whom the Lord has turned his eyes.’ That was my reply when they asked me if I accepted my election as pontiff.” These were the words of Pope Francis in an interview with La Civiltà Cattolica in 2013. He defined himself as a sinner who had experienced mercy. Indeed, he whispered to me the Latin words he uttered after his election, “Peccator sum, sed super misericordia et infinita patientia Domini nostri Iesu Christi confisus et in spiritu paenitentiae accipio .” “I am a sinner,” the pope clearly stated.
This could have led him to doubt himself. Yet it did not, for his response was, “I accept.” The only reason that grounded his decision was confidence “in the mercy and infinite patience of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So the acceptance of the office of pope came in “a spirit of penance.”
If Bergoglio had not trusted in mercy (super misericordia…), he would not have accepted. His words were strong words, not “pious” or ones framed for the occasion. There were numerous testimonies that “mercy” was the key word. In 2013 alone, that is, in the first nine months of his pontificate, the pope used it in about 200 passages of his speeches. He referred to it in the first Mass at St. Anne’s church in the Vatican on March 17, 2013: “Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think – and I say it with humility – that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.”
It should not be forgotten, in this regard, that in the New Testament the plea for mercy – for example, “Lord, have mercy on my son” (Matt 17:15) – acquires the meaning of a true confession of faith. This is exactly what Bergoglio intends to do: express his own faith