The Catholic Church, under the direction of Pope Benedict XVI, held the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Rome on April 2-6, 2008. The idea for the Congress began in July 2005, when Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, presided over a Divine Mercy international retreat in Lagiewniki, Poland; a response to the call to live a life of witness to God’s mercy by blessed Pope John Paul II in his homily on the 17th of August 2002 in Krakow, Poland,
“Today, therefore, in this Shrine, I wish solemnly to entrust the world to Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed here through Saint Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world. May the binding promise of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled: from here there must go forth "the spark which will prepare the world for his final coming" (cf. Diary, 1732).
This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness! I entrust this task to you, dear Brothers and Sisters, to the Church in Kraków and Poland, and to all the votaries of Divine Mercy who will come here from Poland and from throughout the world. May you be witnesses to mercy!” (Homily of August 17, 2002)
Inspired by its participants, Cardinal Schönborn approached Pope Benedict with a proposal for a World Mercy Congress. The Holy Father enthusiastically embraced it.
“The Holy Father loves the project,” said Fr. Patrice Chocholski of Lyon, France, the Congress’s Secretary General and Cardinal Schönborn’s representative to the Mercy Congress.
“His name is opening many doors for this Congress, and we thank him for his involvement.”
In planning for the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy ‘According to Fr. Matthew Mauriello, National Director of the Congress and a member of the Mercy Congress’ International Executive Committee, “The Congress aims to establish and support many initiatives to intensify the proclamation of mercy to the world. We also hope to increase the comprehension of this loving and hopeful message.”
Father Mauriello says, “The goal is to have attendees return to their homes, parishes, and dioceses to plant the seeds of mercy at the local level.”
Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, Director of Evangelization and Development of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and also Associate National Director of the U.S. Congress on Mercy, envisaged that the gathering in Rome “will begin an ongoing program of reflection and experience of Divine Mercy and its healing power that will not stop until its rays imbue all people with deeper love, compassion and, joy… Everyone is invited to participate, because, deep down, we all seek forgiveness and love. God offers this gift freely to all.”
At the opening Mass of the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, celebrated in honour of the third anniversary of the death of the servant of God Pope John Paul II, The Great Mercy Pope, the Holy Father himself referred to the Congress as the "World Apostolic Congress on Divine Mercy." He said in his homily
“Venerable and dear Brothers, I thank you all for joining me at this Holy Mass of suffrage for beloved John Paul II. I address a special thought to the participants of the First World Congress on Divine Mercy, which is opening this very day and which intends to deepen his rich Magisterium on the subject. God's mercy, as he himself said, is a privileged key to the interpretation of his Pontificate. He wanted the message of God's merciful love to be made known to all and urged the faithful to witness to it (cf. Homily at Krakow-Łagiewniki, 17 August 2002). This is why he desired to raise to the honour of the altars Sr Faustina Kowalska, a humble Sister who, through a mysterious divine plan, became a prophetic messenger of Divine Mercy. The Servant of God John Paul II had known and personally experienced the terrible tragedies of the 20th century and for a long time wondered what could stem the tide of evil. The answer could only be found in God's love. In fact, only Divine Mercy is able to impose limitations on evil; only the almighty love of God can defeat the tyranny of the wicked and the destructive power of selfishness and hate. For this reason, during his last Visit to Poland, he said on his return to the land of his birth: "Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind" ( HOLY MASS ON THE THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF THE SERVANT OF GOD JOHN PAUL II HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI St Peter's Square Wednesday, 2 April 2008)
‘Cardinals Christoph Schönborn, Camillo Ruini and Stanislaus Dziwisz greeted some 8,000 attendees with words of encouragement and wisdom. Cardinal Schönborn of Austria, invoking the Holy Spirit, asked those gathered to bring their "minds and hearts up to God in a spirit of wisdom, so it may bring forth faith and bring us into true testimonies of truth and love."
"Love is something that builds" Cardinal Schönborn added. "The mystery of Divine Mercy is merciful love, which seeks intervention in our lives." Time and again, Cardinal Schönborn came back to the point that Divine Mercy is a way of life first, a message second, and a devotion third. "I truly hope the World Congress on Divine Mercy, which is defined as being apostolic, may stimulate a new missionary front in the name of God and the name of mercy not just in all the churches of Rome, but in all churches, indeed, everyplace worldwide."’ ('Something that Builds' Dan Valenti Apr 3, 2008)
We are indeed called to continue the work of a humble polish nun, St Maria Faustina Kowolska, secretary of God’s Mercy, to remind not only ourselves but those about us through the way we live our lives as witnesses to the blessed trinity that God loves each of us with a love that is itself unfathomable and His mercy reaches beyond our understanding.
Since the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy many countries have continued with congresses in their own country, continuing to feed those who seek to spread God’s Mercy with an increase in the gifts of the Holy Spirit to enable them to continue the work as Apostles of Mercy. To show mercy in a world plagued by violence, doubt and fear takes an immense amount of courage and yet Faith the size of a mustard seed which comes through Trust, to walk freely in God’s love and Mercy.
Cardinal Gabriel Zubier Wakok, Archbishop of Khartoum, Sudan( as described in the Catholic Weekly 14 August 2012; As Archbishop of Khartoum, Gabriel Zubeir Wako is no stranger to suffering. Indeed[, like Juba,] the hopes and dreams of this extraordinary personality have frequently been reduced to rubble. And yet, he and the Church he leads have not only survived but have a fervent faith in the future. Nor is this idle thinking; this is a man who holds on to his beliefs in the face of assassination attempts, threats of imprisonment, and countless attacks on his people and his Church.
In his 2005 Easter message (http://www.cardinalrating.com/cardinal_124__article_3654.htm ) reported by the Catholic Information Service for Africa Cardinal Wakok put it this way:
"Last year we celebrated the Easter of forgiveness and reconciliation," said Cardinal Zubeir Wako. "Like Jesus, we still carried with us and in us the scars of several years of war, oppression andmisery, with the accompanying frustration, anger and bitterness. This year we should push further on the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are acts of courage and freedom. Our society, our communities and families are heavily marked with cruelty, violence, revenge, tribalism, corruption, selfishness, and disregard for the poor and the weak. It needs courageous and truly free people who choose deliberately to swim against the current to scatter the seeds of understanding and friendship among our people."
Cardinal Zubeir Wako urged Christians to fix their gaze on the risen Lord, who stands before them with the nail and lance marks on his body.
"People, some of whom could be called very respectable, made those marks…They were cruel, unjust, inhuman, arrogant, ignorant and really bad people, without any fear of God or respect for human beings. You might want to describe those who have hurt you, and perhaps yourself, in similar terms."
“Jesus, in that torn and lacerated body, had a heart which none of his torturers could touch” Cardinal Zubeir Wako said. "That heart remained what it had always been: a heart full of infinite goodness, compassion, mercy and love," he observed. "From that heart he asks us to relay to all who have done us wrong the prayer he offered for those who were crucifying him: ’Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’" Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir WakoK, HARTOUM, Sudan, APRIL 25, 2006 Easter Message.
When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for 3 months at “the house of the dying” in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, “And what can I do for you?” Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.
“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked. He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States. “Pray that I have clarity.”
She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.” When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you will trust God.”
So it is with all those who seek to know God's will is to walk in Trust, for we can only lead by example, being merciful as God is merciful. To Love The Lord our God with all our Heart, Mind, Body and Soul and to Love our Neighbour as ourselves. Through the Congress on Mercy, may we grow in strength through the power of the Holy Spirit, to walk in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ for the glory of God the Father, knowing that we live in the time of God's Mercy.
Our Lord Jesus said to St. Faustina “How very much I desire the salvation of souls! My dearest secretary, write that I want to pour out My divine life into human souls and to sanctify them, if only they are willing to accept My grace. The greatest sinners would achieve great sanctity, if only they would trust in My mercy. The very inner depths of My being are filled to overflowing with mercy, and it is being poured out upon all I have created. My delight is to act in a human soul and to fill it with My mercy and to justify it. My kingdom on earth is my life in the human soul.” (Diary, 1784)