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 CNS Story:

MERCY-SCHONBORN Apr-3-2008 (580 words) xxxi

Cardinal calls mercy a grace that points out sin, provides healing

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- The infinite mercy of God is not simply a warm feeling that leads God to ignore sin and human error, but is a grace that points out sin and provides healing, said Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna.

"Some people today try to pass euthanasia off as a form of mercy," the cardinal said, opening the April 2-6 World Apostolic Congress on Mercy. But euthanasia is murder whereas mercy leads to sharing the suffering of another and alleviating as much pain as possible while sitting alongside the dying, he said.

Mercy is not real if it does not acknowledge the whole truth, Cardinal Schonborn said.

Too many people, he said, see the God of the Old Testament as an angry God, when in fact the Hebrew Scriptures are "a great school of God's mercy."

"The love of God for his people is one of unimaginable fidelity," the cardinal said. "All people, from the king to the most simple, are scolded for their errors" because "one can heal only if there is an honest and clear diagnosis" of the ailment.

"Because we believe and have trust in the fact that God is infinitely merciful, we do not need to hide our sins, deny our errors and continually proclaim our innocence," Cardinal Schonborn said.

The faithful mercy of God shown to the Israelites, he said, became even more accessible in the person of Jesus Christ.

Before the mercy congress opened, participants joined Pope Benedict XVI for a memorial Mass marking the third anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, who promoted the divine mercy devotions.

The devotions were begun in the late 1930s by St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who said she had a vision of Jesus in which he asked for devotions to divine mercy on the Sunday after Easter. As Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, the future Pope John Paul opened the nun's sainthood cause. As pope, he beatified her in 1993, canonized her in 2000 and declared the Sunday after Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday.

Cardinal Schonborn said Pope John Paul saw the divine mercy devotions "as a response to the indescribable proportions evil assumed in the 20th century, which he, in his own life, witnessed: the horrors of national socialism, the incredible sufferings of the Polish population during the Nazi occupation and under communism."

The pope saw divine mercy as the only remedy to hatred, violence and oppression, he said.

Calling Catholics to be "witnesses of mercy," he was calling them not only to occasional acts of charity, but to recognize their own sinfulness, seek God's healing and live with mercy toward all so that others would see how mercy could change the world.

"Mercy is concrete," he said. "It does not regard everyone a little bit, but the person who, here and now, needs my help."

Addressing the congress April 3, French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon said that in his experiences of dialogue with Jews and with Muslims, both in France and in North Africa, the theme of God's mercy is an important starting point because both religions strongly emphasize the merciful God.

Interreligious dialogue, he said, is important to help people "take the step from tolerance to mutual esteem and, if the Lord gives us this grace, to admiration."


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