Pope Francis – no shrinking violet – has expounded on a number of important topics during the two years of his papacy; abortion, euthanasia, divorce and remarriage, racial discrimination, male and female homosexuality and more.
All of these, under the general umbrella of ‘respect for life’, have each received his attention.
In each case, he has addressed the issue in an inclusive and certainly non-judgemental manner.
Far from it, in fact, as witnessed by his response to a group of the world’s press who questioned him on the gay community, replying: “If a gay person is seeking God in his life, who am I to judge that person?”
He was, and is, acutely aware, as we all should be, of Christ’s words: “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Even Christ himself, when asked by the scribes, Pharisees and Jewish elders for his opinion on the woman caught committing adultery and whether or not she should be stoned to death, replied: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
When they all accepted the fact that they were sinners, as we all are, they quietly slunk away.
Jesus told the woman he did not condemn her either, but advised her to go and sin no more.
Pope Francis has recently announced a ‘year of mercy’ beginning on December 8.
This is not his mercy, or the church’s mercy, but the mercy of God himself.
It is an opportunity for all who feel ostracised, for whatever reason, from their local church community, to return and receive the mercy of God and not to be consigned to feel condemned because of any human frailty.
Christ himself said: “I came to call sinners, not the just.”
St Norbert’s Church will be participating in this year of mercy under the leadership of our priest, Father James Burke, and with the enthusiastic support of our new Bishop of Nottingham, the Rt Rev Patrick McKinney, who paid his initial visit on the weekend of November 14 and 15.
There will be a full programme throughout the year, beginning with a reconciliation service.
Later events will include a pilgrimage to Walsingham in May.
All are welcome to God’s mercy in their lives, for his love for mankind is unconditional.