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"I think the Church simply wants to let the beauty, the goodness, the accessibility of Divine Mercy shine forth for the whole world," said Bishop William Lori.
Plans for World Congress Hit the Airwaves
The airwaves on Sunday evening were filled with talk about arguably the most exciting news story involving the Divine Mercy movement since the canonization of St. Faustina in 2000.
The topic on EWTN's "Sunday Night Live with Father Benedict Groeschel" centered on the first-ever World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, which will be held in Rome from April 2 to April 6, 2008.
Father Groeschel, CFR, the famous author and lecturer, had as his guests Bishop William Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., and Fr. Matthew Mauriello, pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Bridgeport. Both men are working with the Marians of the Immaculate Conception to help organize the Congress.
The two guests spoke of the significance of the upcoming World Congress in the life of the Church and for the world at large.
"Anytime there is an international congress, it is always about a central mystery of the faith," said Bishop Lori, an honorary member of the U.S. Congress's national committee. "This Congress is being convened to underline — to highlight — the great importance of Divine Mercy in the life and spirituality, not just of every Catholic, but of every person. And it's being convened because we live in a time when this message needs to be heard loud and clear."
Bishop Lori explained St. Maria Faustina's role in the message of Divine Mercy. This humble, Polish nun received a series of revelations from Jesus in the 1930s — "revelations that bring home the tender mercy of God," he said. The revelations occurred "against the backdrop of the atrocities that unfolded in the 20th century — the wars, the Holocaust, things that were really unspeakable," said Bishop Lori.
"God, in His Providence, sought to use St. Faustina as His 'secretary,' almost dictating to us His wonderful terms of mercy so that we, in our time, would clearly perceive that God, the Father, is Mercy, and has shown us His face in Jesus Christ," continued Bishop Lori. "And this mercy —this overwhelming love and forgiveness, God's accessibility to us — is available so that we could take hold of it and find the love of God in our life."
Christ's revelations to St. Faustina are recorded in her Diary, which is published by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.
Father Matthew, the president and chairman of the U.S Congress's national committee, noted that the World Congress wouldn't focus solely on the message of Divine Mercy as revealed to St. Faustina. Rather, he said, St. Faustina will "help us to open the door" to God's greatest attribute, which is mercy, as revealed in Sacred Scripture.
Each day, the World Congress will highlight a special theme: Wednesday April 2, "Prophetic Intuition of John Paul II;" April 3, "Mystery of Divine Mercy;" April 4, "Mercy for Communion;" and April 5, "Mercy and Mission." The Congress concludes Sunday, April 6 with a morning Mass.
About 10,000 people from around the world — church officials, clergy, religious, delegates, and many thousands of laypeople — are expected to attend the gathering in Rome.
Father Matthew noted the World Congress will kick off on the third anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, known as the "Great Mercy Pope."
"He canonized St. Faustina in 2000, making her the first saint of the new millennium, " noted Fr. Groeschel. "That's a tremendous amount of approval."
In his writings and homilies, Pope John Paul II described Divine Mercy as the answer to the world's problems and the message of the third millennium.
"How many people feel that God will not forgive them?" Bishop Lori said. "How many people feel they do not need God's forgiveness? ... How many times does society become deeply unmerciful? And, of course, we're living in a time when there is terrorism going on, and a 'take-no-prisoners, merciless' approach. And so I think the Church simply wants to let the beauty, the goodness, the accessibility of Divine Mercy shine forth for the whole world, and then to have it catch fire in dioceses and parishes and countries throughout the world."
Indeed, follow-up gatherings will be held in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Oceania, and Asia in 2009. World Congress planners say that each regional or national Congress will further explore and disseminate the message of God's limitless mercy for everyone of every faith and help "plant the seeds of mercy at the local level," said Fr. Matthew.
Bishop Lori said he envisions that the Congress will encourage a worldwide movement comprised of "agents of mercy" who engage in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
Toward the end of the broadcast, an audience member asked whether there would be any special publications available to help people prepare for the Congress.
"Excellent question!" said Fr. Groeschel. He spoke about an upcoming book to be published by the Marians, titled, Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI, by Dr. Robert Stackpole. The book will be available in January. This website will keep you informed about how to order a copy. Dr. Stackpole is director of the Marians' John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy and a regular contributor to this website.
Father Groeschel, who will be one of the many speakers at the Congress, encouraged his viewers to consider attending the Congress. "If you've never been to Rome, it would be seeing the Holy City at its best," he said.
For more information on the World Congress, click here.