Photo: Dan Valenti

The Congress Convenes!

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By Felix Carroll (Apr 3, 2008)
If there was any confusion at all about the focus of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, Pope Benedict XVI quickly dispelled it during the opening Mass in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday morning.

The first-ever congress on mercy would focus not on mercy in general, but Divine Mercy specifically. The Holy Father himself referred to the Congress as the "World Apostolic Congress on Divine Mercy."

It's not just a matter of semantics. The message of Divine Mercy, as revealed to St. Faustina in the 1930s, sheds light on the nature of God as Merciful Father. It calls on the world to trust in Jesus, to receive His mercy, and to share that mercy with the world through our actions. It's a message that Pope John Paul II believed was particularly suited to our times.

In his homily, delivered before more than 40,000 people, Pope Benedict XVI set the stage for the five-day world congress, tying it in with the Pontificate of John Paul II, known as the "Great Mercy Pope," who tirelessly promoted the message of God's mercy and who canonized St. Faustina, whose revelations have sparked the modern Divine Mercy movement.

"In fact, only Divine Mercy is capable of limiting evil; only God's all-powerful love can overcome the arrogance of the wicked, and the destructive power of selfishness and hatred," the Holy Father said in his homily.

The opening Mass was celebrated for the soul of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, on the third anniversary of the Polish Pontiff's death. Pope John Paul II spoke of Divine Mercy as his special calling as Pope.

"I direct a particular thought to the participants of the first World Congress on Divine Mercy, which begins today and which intends to delve more deeply into [Pope John Paul's] rich magisterium on this subject," Pope Benedict said. "The message of God, he himself said, is a key to the privileged reading of his pontificate. He wanted the message of the merciful love of God to reach all humanity, and he exhorted the faithful to be witnesses of it. For this reason, he wished to elevate to the honor of the altars Sr. Faustina Kowalska, the humble sister who became, by a mysterious divine design, a prophetic messenger of Divine Mercy.

"Servant of God John Paul II personally knew and experienced the immense tragedies of the 20th century, and for a long time he asked himself what could stem the tide of evil. The answer could not but be in the love of God."

Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, who served as vice-postulator for St. Faustina's canonization cause, called the opening Mass "astounding" -- not only because it echoed Pope John Paul's exhortation that Divine Mercy is the message for our times, but because so many people in the square were clearly drawn by their love for the message and devotion of Divine Mercy.

Indeed, many carried Divine Mercy images and pictures of St. Faustina. And when the words in Italian for "Divine Mercy" were spoken in the Holy Father's homily, the crowd cheered.

"It shows how universal the acceptance of this message is," said Fr. Seraphim. "It's vastly greater than people can imagine."

The aim of the five-day congress is to bring the message of mercy into the daily life of the Church and the world. About 200 delegations from around the world, including clergy and laity and people of other faiths, are taking part. Throughout the week, the congress is featuring prayer, plenary sessions, ecumenical testimonies and evangelization throughout Rome.

Susan Wilson, a member of a Divine Mercy cenacle in Salem, Oregon, was drawn to the congress after she experienced a conversion in 2000, on the day of St. Faustina's canonization.

"I believe this congress is the second most important event in human history, second to the Paschal Mystery of Christ," she said. "From this point on we are all being called to spread the message of Divine Mercy. We'll be heralds of His Second Coming, as St. Faustina was. This congress launches this message into a world event."

"It's such an important event," said Ellen Jonah of Ghana, who was wearing a dress that had the face of St. Faustina and The Divine Mercy image printed upon it. "There is so much pain in the world, so many families torn apart. We've come here to learn more about Divine Mercy so that we can bring the message back to our communities."

"We're those vessels of mercy that are being filled up this week so that we may bring it back and share God's mercy with all," said Lee Bowers of Texas.

"Christ came and gave a human face to God's mercy," said Olga Blake, a nurse from Bronx, N.Y., who is participating in the congress. "So we must take that mercy and, in turn, be merciful to others. This is the only way the world will heal itself."

In his homily, the Holy Father asked John Paul II "to continue to intercede from heaven for each of us, and particularly for me whom Providence has called to take up his priceless spiritual legacy.

"May the Church," he said, "following his teaching and example, continue in her evangelizing mission faithfully and without compromise, tirelessly spreading Christ's merciful love, source of true peace for the whole world."

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

mary sumalinog - May 7, 2008

Thanks God I was there to witnessed FROM DAY ONE UP TO THE END. the spiritual event,I don't know my feeling was it was IN mix emotion,I WAS IN TEARS,ESPECIALLY IT WAS MY FIRST TIME TO GO TO ROME,AND THE EVENTS WAS VERY ESPECIALLY TO ME.GOD BLESS.

Mary Lou - Apr 15, 2008

I attended the Congress on a last-minute decision.When I made my novena to the Divine Mercy on Good Friday, all I asked was a chance to be able to attend this First Mercy Congress.Due to some concerns,realizing it seemed remote. But there was something deep inside me begging TO GO...GO. I dunno how it will happen but " Jesus, I TRUST in You ".Easter Tuesday, a week before the start of the Congress- a deepening inspiration shakened my senses to go or not to go,now or never. Dropping all material considerations and with the inspiration of 2 wonderful persons He sent-the doubts melted away.I was fired-up instantenously.The journey was a memorial congress in honour of my beloved parents who opened my path To Divne Mercy and those they left behind. All through-out this Mercy event, joy and gratitude captivated my soul.Awesome!It was an honour to be there.What a GIFT ! It was a journey for my parents but now it is mine!I know now what it means TO TRUST IN YOU ! What a work of Love, of Mercy ! Thank you, Most Merciful Jesus !

R.A.FLOOD - Apr 4, 2008


Dora - Apr 4, 2008

Divine Mercy, heal our world! We must all do what we can to promote this wonderful and powerful gift from God. The Lord has inspired me to pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy daily at 3:00 p.m., along with other prayers to the Divine Mercy. I pray it every day with faith, knowing countless souls are being saved. I have taught the Chaplet to children at church and when you have 40 to 50 children praying/singing the Chaplet, you know Jesus is there, pouring out His Mercy on all of us. There is power in these prayers--power for conversion, forgiveness, spiritual and physical healing and most of all for a deeper relationship with Jesus, Divine Mercy Himself! Let's do all we can to pray this prayer with devotion and faith and remember that, even in this most sinful, confusing, dark world, everything is possible through the Divine Mercy of God! God bless each and every one of you and may God's Mercy enfold and keep you close to Him and His Son!

Colleen Scharnick, Founder, Mercy Foundation, Diocese of Oudtshoorn, South Africa - Apr 3, 2008

We praise God for this opportunity - that we are all send forth to proclaim the Divine Mercy message and participate in preparing the world for the Second Coming of our beloved Saviour and King of Mercy, Jesus Christ. And we thank God that Pope Benedict XVI, through this World Congress on Divine Mercy, is giving a clear message of Divine Mercy to the world.

In particular I hope that this message from Pope Benedict XVI will help to break down any existing barriers to proclaim the Divine Mercy message.

We have started a Divine Mercy Prison Ministry with the support received from Bishop Edward Adams, diocese of Oudtshoorn,the parish priest from St Maria Goretti parish,Worcester,and three priests from the diocese of Cape Town. And in 2007 we celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday in the local prison - never before in the history of South Africa, has Divine Mercy Sunday been celebrated in prison - it was a historical event - prisoners received the Sacraments of Reconcilliation and the Holy Eucharist. And the Lord blessed us to do it again this year. We pray that God will bless the ministry to grow across the country, taking Divine Mercy to prison.

In spirit we are with you at the Divine Mercy World Congress.
Please also keep us in your prayers.

Robert Allard, Director, Apostles of Divine Mercy - Apr 3, 2008

Thank you for these updates on this great Divine Mercy World Congress. I am there is spirit. I can't wait for the National Divine Mercy Congress in our own country next year... it should be the best ever Divine Mercy congress!

Lori - Apr 3, 2008

What A Extraordinary Time we are in! WOW !!! Didnt the Saints talk about this Time ? WE ARE ALL SO BLESSED !!!

New Member of Divine Mercy - Apr 3, 2008

I had a personal prayer card of St Faustina which I took with me when I moved to Las Vegas. I never realized what she represented until I attended a Divine Mercy prayer group at a local parish. I now feel the blessing of forgiveness from Jesus for everything I have ever done and we in turn must also forgive everyone else for whatever happened in the past and spread the word of forgiveness to all we come in contact with.

M. - Apr 3, 2008

Read at a site on near death experience , how everytime we have an accusing thought about a person such as a priest, a demon can attach to us !
Mercy help us to have kinder ways of looking at all , for the freedom and joy it brings !!
May we be blessed with mercy, to see His Mercy , in all in life !

Annie Karto - Apr 3, 2008

"Praise God"! As a Catholic singer-songwriter, and member of the Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy, this World Congress on The Divine Mercy is a dream come true. For over 18 years, I like many others have been striving to proclaim and share God's Healing Divine Mercy.. and to see now the World Congress is "astounding," as Fr. Seraphim mentioned. I personally want to thank Dr. Bryan Thatcher for his work in establishing the Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy, and for his tireless efforts in proclaiming God's Mercy through spiritual and corporal works of Mercy. annie karto