Pope Francis explores the universal theme of mercy in a new book, which is a spiritual inspiration to both followers of Christianity and non-Christians around the world.
Drawing on his own experience as a priest and shepherd, the Pope discusses mercy, a subject of central importance in his religious teaching and testimony, and in addition sums up other ideas – reconciliation, the closeness of God – that comprise the heart of his papacy.
‘The Name of God is Mercy’ is written in conversation with Vatican expert and journalist Andrea Tornielli and is directed at everyone, inside or outside of the Catholic Church, seeking meaning in life, a road to peace and reconciliation, or the healing of physical or spiritual wounds.
Born in Buenos Aires in December 1936, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been the Bishop of Rome and 266th Pope of the Catholic Church since March 13, 2013. Last year on March 13, he decided to give a decisive turn to his papacy by announcing the Holy Year of Mercy from December 8, 2015 which will end on November 20 this year.
According to the Pope, humanity is deeply wounded and is need of mercy.
"Either it (humanity) does not know how to cure its wounds or it believes that it’s not possible to cure them. And it’s not a question of social ills or people wounded by poverty, social exclusion, or one of the many slaveries of the third millennium," he says.
He also tells Tornielli in the book, published by Pan Macmillan imprint Bluebird, that the Pope too is a man who needs the mercy of God.
"Mercy exists, but if you don’t want to receive it… If you don’t recognise yourself as a sinner, it means you don’t want to receive it, it means that you don’t feel the need for it."
The Pope reiterates that the Church cannot close the door on anyone – that, on the contrary, its duty is to find its way into the consciousness of people so that they can assume responsibility for, and move away from, the bad things they have done.
The Pope says there is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church and it "relates us to Judaism and Islam".
He also says that among the privileged names that Islam attributes to the creator are "merciful and kind".
"This invocation is often on the lips of faithful Muslims who feel themselves accompanied and sustained by mercy in their daily weakness. They too believe that no one can place a limit on divine mercy because its doors are always open," he says.
On corruption, Francis says, "The corrupt man often doesn’t realize his own condition, much as a person with bad breath does not know they have it."
Asked about gay Catholics, he tells Tornielli, "I am glad that we are talking about ‘homosexual people’ because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity. And people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love.
"I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together. You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it."
According to him, migrants and other vulnerable people should be reached out to, listened, advised, and taught "our own experience".
"By welcoming a marginalised person whose body is wounded and by welcoming the sinner whose soul is wounded, we put our credibility as Christians on the line," he adds.