01/12/2016, 00.00
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Pope: mercy is “God’s identity card"

In a book-length interview released today, Francis appears to reaffirm and explain some ideas that are particularly dear to him, namely how the Church is a "field hospital" that "warms the hearts of people with closeness and proximity." Corruption is sin “elevated to a system” that becomes “a mental habit, a way of living.”

Rome (AsiaNews) – Mercy as "God’s identity card" is the idea on which is based The Name of God Is Mercy, a book-length conversation between Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli and Pope Francis, which was presented today in Rome and released in 86 countries.

Italian actor Roberto Benigni, who was present at the book launch, called it “beautiful”, noting that it was possible to read portions “in five minutes, while waiting for a late train.”

In the interview, Francis appears to reaffirm and explain some ideas that are particularly dear to him.

He says that prayers, reflections on previous popes, and an image of the Church as a "field hospital" that "warms the hearts of people with closeness and proximity" led him to hold the Jubilee of Mercy.

Wounded by many social ills like poverty, exclusion, 3rd millennium slavery, as well as relativism, humanity needs mercy – “God’s identity card" – from the One who "is always faithful" even when the sinner denies him.

In the book, Francis urges confessors to show tenderness towards penitents. Indeed, one goes to confession, "not to be judged," but for "something greater than judgement, namely the encounter with God’s mercy" without which "the world would not exist."

The confessional should be neither "a drycleaner" to cleanse away one’s sins like some simple spot nor a "torture chamber" where one clashes with "overly curious confessors” whose inquisitiveness is sometimes "a little sick”, morbid, turning the confession into an interrogation.

To those who at times say that there is "too much mercy" in the Church, the pope’s answer points out that "the Church condemns the sin," but "at the same time embraces the sinner who recognises himself as such, and she speaks to him about God’s infinite mercy."

We must forgive "seventy times seven, that is, always." The Church, therefore, "is not in the world to condemn, but to allow the meeting with the visceral love that is God's mercy."

Answering a question about gay people, the pope explains what he said in 2013, during a press conference on his return from Rio de Janeiro, namely that "If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?"

By that, the pontiff meant, “I was paraphrasing from memory the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with care and not be marginalised. [. . .] I prefer that gay people come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, that we pray together."

Speaking about the relationship between truth, doctrine and mercy, Francis says, "I like to say: mercy is true". It "is God’s first attribute". After this, “theological reflections can be done about doctrine and mercy but without forgetting that mercy is doctrine.

In the book, the pope comes down hard on corruption, "the sin which, rather than being recognised as such and rendering us humble, is elevated to a system; it becomes a mental habit, a way of living.”

The corrupt man is the one who sins but does not repent, who sins and pretends to be Christian, and it is this double life that is scandalous.

The corrupt man tires of asking for forgiveness and spends his life taking opportunistic shortcuts, at the cost of his dignity and that of others.

With his ‘Goody Two-Shoes face’, the corrupt man evades taxes, fires employees to avoid hiring them on a permanent basis, uses the black market and then boasts his cunning ways with friends. He goes to Mass every Sunday but has no problem using his powerful position to demand kickbacks.

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