By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Cardinal Piacenza opens his letter reminding confessors that “mercy does not stop” and “God does not distance Himself”.
The letter was published on the website of the Apostolic Penitentiary on 4 April.
The Cardinal writes in respect of the difficulties faced by Christian communities in the light of restrictions put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
He notes that social distancing might be necessary for health reasons, but it should not translate into distance from the Church or the Sacraments.
Mercy does not stop
Cardinal Piacenza acknowledges that mercy is expressed in the creativity employed by many priests to make pastoral care available to the People of God. He adds that in these times more than ever before, “everyone needs the closeness and caress of Jesus.”
The Cardinal notes that mercy expresses itself in the “small gestures of tenderness and love made towards the poorest.” In this regard, he gives examples of coronavirus sufferers, healthcare workers, the lonely and the homeless.
If the ordinary celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not possible, the Cardinal enjoins all confessors not to stop their work of mercy, but rather fulfill their “priestly role as intercessors” conferred on them at ordination. He invites them “to pray, console, and present souls to God’s Divine Mercy”.
Call to Priests
The Cardinal stresses that mercy does not stop even if the sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated without the physical presence of the people. He notes that salvation flows from the Eucharist which is the source of all grace for the Church and the world.
He calls on priests to rediscover the essence of their priestly ministry. He reminds them that priests are ministers of Christ’s work which is “the sacramental implementation of salvation.”
Other expressions of mercy
Cardinal Piacenza notes that mercy expresses itself in every consideration to which the pandemic pushes us. It is “in the rediscovery of the values which are worth living and dying for: in silence, adoration and prayer, and in the rediscovery of the closeness of others and of God, above all.”
“Mercy does not stop at the celebration of the sacred liturgy,” adds the Cardinal. Rather, it becomes “lived charity that extends its friendly hand to those who suffer, and the forgiveness of God through priestly ministry.”
Even those who have died are not exempt from mercy, writes Cardinal Piacenza. They are reached by prayers of suffrage “in the Paschal certainty that with death, relationships are not broken but are transformed, and strengthened into the communion of saints.”
Cardinal Piacenza concludes his letter by entrusting the ministry of reconciliation, and this unique Easter, to the protection of Our Lady. He prays that “everyone may be given the new life for which every person yearns.”