Vatican City, 26 January 2016 (VIS) – A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present the Holy Father's Message for Lent 2016. The panel was composed of Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, archbishop of Agrigento, Italy and member of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"; Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso and Msgr. Segundo Tejado Munoz, respectively secretary and under-secretary of the same dicastery.
Cardinal Montenegro explained that the Message is divided into three parts, focusing on mercy in the light of the Word of God, insistence on the works of mercy and the relationship between Lent and the Jubilee itinerary.
The first part examines the theme of mercy in the Scripture and helps us to recover the fundamental meanings of this term that Pope Francis has previously described as "the very foundation" of both the Trinitarian mystery and the life of the Church". In particular, since Lent looks towards the Paschal mystery, we focus on the fact that Christ's Cross is the culmination of the revelation of the Father's mercy, and Jesus is the face of this mercy. "During Lent, the Church has always encouraged greater nourishment from the Word of God, and the Pope invites all Christians to explore the theme of mercy through the pages of the Bible and the prophets, as these are not simply limited to repeating that God is merciful, but rather indicate clearly that His children must be merciful too, practising a greater love especially by caring for children, the poor and the helpless".
The works of mercy, the second key point of the Message, form part of the treasury of the Christian tradition. While during Lent we fix our gaze on the crucified Christ and in the liturgy we relive all that He suffered for our love, "we certainly cannot think that face, unique as it is, has stopped being present in our history", added Cardinal Montenegro. The Pope hopes that during Lent all Christians will feel the need to be nurtured by the Word of God and will at the same time open their heart to those who suffer by performing works of mercy. "As a pastor of a Church which experiences several forms of poverty and faces various challenges such as that of immigration, I would like to add something", he continued. "At times we tend to think that faith can be lived only by participating in the sacraments or praying in the most varied ways, excluding from spiritual life the needs of man, and especially those of the poorest. The result is that this type of faith sooner or later becomes sterile or insipid. Instead, when we listen and put this into practice, faith then becomes a joyful and contagious experience, enriching and stimulating. We have experienced this, for example, in Lampedusa with the arrival of thousands of people, and in many other communities who have accepted the challenge of opening up to the different forms of poverty in their area. ... It is clear that this is not easy, as at times it is necessary to deal with entrenched mentalities that do not easily open up to the new. However, in my limited experience, I feel able to say that the way is possible and it is, above all, the way Jesus shows to us in the Gospel".
Finally, the Message considers the Jubilee itinerary. "The Paschal mystery is the heart of the liturgical year, and this Lent is right at the heart of the Jubilee. The strong time of the Jubilee is interlinked with Lenten time, constituting an extraordinary richness for the conversion and the spiritual growth of every Christian and for the Church as a whole. From this perspective the message we are presenting has a very stimulating backdrop of questions on the current historical and cultural context, and how the Christian is located within it". … From this there derives the prophetic proposal of the Jubilee path and of the Lenten period as a time for reviewing the path of one's own life, and for hearing the cry of the poor, the same Christ Who knocks on the door of our heart in the hope that we decide to open it and, welcoming Him, sample real life. In these first months of the Jubilee, especially through the sign of the door, we have been able to experience the beauty of mercy made accessible to all. Not only the door of the St. Peter's Basilica, or the major Basilicas, but also the cathedrals in the dioceses and, in particular, places that symbolise poverty, such as the Caritas hostel in Rome and prison cells. Through these powerful choices the Pope is inviting all the Church to set out towards every person, and towards the suffering and the poor in particular. In this way, the Jubilee path is not only the one we find in the calendar, but rather the one we are all called to undertake, supported by God's mercy, to recognise Him in the poor so as to place ourselves by their side to listen and serve".
Msgr. Del Toso spoke about the initiatives of "Cor Unum" during the Lenten period. The first, in response to a request from the Holy Father, is a spiritual retreat for those who work in the service of charity in the Church, so that they too may "experience God's mercy". The second is a major international conference to commemorate ten years since the publication of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI's first encyclical, "Deus caritas est", to be held on 25 and 26 February in the New Synod Hall.