The Book That Sparked the Divine Mercy Movement The Diary chronicles God's message given through St. Faustina to the world to turn to His mercy. In it, we are reminded to t... Read more
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Tentative plans call for the Holy Father to participate in the Congress, most likely in celebrating the closing Mass at St. Peter's Square.
Next Stop: Rome
Plans for World Congress on Mercy are Taking Shape
A milestone event in Rome next year could very well become the defining moment in spreading the message of Divine Mercy.
If all goes as planned, the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, set for April 2-6, 2008, will prove to be the initiation of a process that, at last, fulfills Jesus' momentous directive to St. Faustina — to spread word of God's mercy to the entire world.
Jesus told St. Faustina, "My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy" (Diary of St. Faustina, 699).
To a simple nun with a third grade education, this directive seemed overwhelming. But now, well into the 21st century, the modern marvels of mass communication — combined with the zeal of countless adherents — may prove to be Divine Mercy's latest defining moment.
A Mission Statement
Plans for the Congress have been under way for some time, but have now kicked into overdrive. With the help of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who have a long-standing history in the promulgation of the mercy message, the Congress has fashioned its mission statement around the words of Pope John Paul II.
Congress planners selected John Paul's remarks in Krakow on Aug. 18, 2002, when he talked of the need to "create and set up a pastoral program of mercy. This program should constitute a commitment ... to the life of the Church [and] to the social and political life of the nations and of the world."
With this statement in mind, the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy aims to support and establish numerous initiatives that seek to intensify the proclamation of mercy to the world, and to increase the comprehension of this revolutionarily hopeful message, in all aspects pertaining to one's personal life and to society.
Indeed, the gathering in Rome will seek to cast the widest net possible.
"The Congress will have an international dimension, a national dimensional, a regional dimension, and a local dimension," says Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, Marians' Director of Evangelization and Development. "This Congress is an attempt to change the culture. To do that, we need to bring this message of mercy into people's daily lives, their homes, and their places of work. Wherever they are and whatever they do, Divine Mercy has a place there."
Planting the Seeds
Moreover, the Congress in Rome will mark a beginning rather than a one-time event in and of itself. The planners of the Congress want to continue the work begun in Rome on several levels. First and most immediate will be when the delegates and attendees return from Rome to their respective homes, parishes, and dioceses to begin planting the seeds of mercy on the local level.
That will be followed by several follow-up gatherings, the largest of which will take place nationally. For example, National Congresses are planned in 2009 for the United States, Asia, Europe, and Mexico.
In the United States, Bishop William Lori, Archbishop of Bridgeport, Conn., will serve as Honorary President. Bishop Lori has named Fr. Matthew Mauriello, pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Bridgeport, Conn., as national director of the U.S. Mercy Congress. Father Kaz will function as associate national director.
"I just believe [the national directorship] is a privilege given to me by God," says Fr. Matt. "I'm pleased, humbled, excited, and scared. But I will couple this responsibility with the love I've always had for The Divine Mercy."
'Drumming Up Support'
Last week, from July 2-6, Fr. Matt met in Oakland, Calif., with Fr. Patrice Chocholski of Lyon, France, the general secretary of the Congress, and officials from the Diocese of Oakland. A meeting at the Archdiocese of San Francisco followed. Father Matt said the meetings were designed "to drum up support for the Congress on the West Coast."
For Fr. Matt, the learning curve has been a steep one, since he only received his appointment from Bishop Lori in mid-June. He says, though, that things are coming together nicely.
"I truly have a better perspective of the Congress, and of the national organizations," he says. "For example, in Asia, the Congress is based in the Philippines. In Latin America, it will be headquartered through the Diocese of Puebla, Mexico, as well as through Paraguay and Brazil. I can see the whole thing coming together beautifully as one of the splendid fruits of the 26-year pontificate of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, the Great Mercy Pope."
The Congress will attempt to have a universal scope and appeal.
"Rome [in April 2008] will be the kickoff of an ongoing process that will not stop," says Fr. Kaz. "The World Congress on Mercy will show that historic biblical mercy, and mercy as revealed to St. Faustina, are one and the same. It's all one. This Congress will involve the Universal Church, but it goes way beyond that.
"The Orthodox Church will be involved. Muslims and Jews want to be a part of this. Everyone will be invited to participate — believers, nonbelievers, every soul. That is the nature of 'congress.' The word is a paradigm of what we do when we come together as one people under one God."
This past May, Fr. Kaz and Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC — arguably the world's leading expert in Divine Mercy and on the life of St. Faustina — journeyed to Rome to participate in strategic planning sessions that established the initial framework for the five days of the Congress.
"The tentative schedule looks most promising," Fr. Seraphim says, "both in terms of the major participants and the key topics they will address. While we were in Rome, I had the real sense that the planning for the Congress was coming together in a beneficent way. The more that news of the Congress spreads, the more interest we are seeing. For example, many religious houses have agreed to open their doors to help those pilgrims who may not be able to afford accommodations."
The first day of the Congress will coincide with the third anniversary of Pope John Paul II's death. It was John Paul II, of course, who put Divine Mercy on the map of the universal Church by making Divine Mercy Sunday a Holy Day and by canonizing St. Faustina.
One of the highlights of the World Mercy Congress initiative has been the enthusiastic backing of Pope Benedict XVI.
Tentative plans call for the Holy Father to participate in the Mercy Congress, most likely in celebrating the closing Mass at St. Peter's Square. Congressional Secretary General Fr. Patrice says, "The enthusiasm of the Pope is as great now as it has been since the Congress was first proposed."
Other provisional plans call for the following Cardinals to address the Congress over the five days: Cardinal Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna; Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar General of Rome; Cardinal Stanislaus Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow; Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ, Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Each day of the gathering will highlight a special theme:
• Wednesday, April 2, "Prophetic Intuition of John Paul II"
• Thursday, April 3, "Mystery of Divine Mercy"
• Friday, April 4, "Mercy for Communion"
• Saturday, April 5, "Mercy and Mission."
• Sunday, April 6, morning Mass with Pope Benedict.
The Importance of Prayer
Meanwhile, what can ordinary people do to assist the Congress?
Father Matt responded immediately: "Pray, go to the sacraments, and then become people of mercy."
The Marians are also offering the opportunity for a limited number of pilgrims to attend the sessions in Rome next year. While the exact dates of the pilgrimage haven't been finalized, they will be centered around the week of April 2-6.
Pilgrims will be able to attend the morning plenary sessions and afternoon workshops. Space is limited. Those who wish to reserve a space should call 1-413-298-1307 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave your name, mailing address, day and evening phone numbers, and your e-mail address.
Dan Valenti writes Dan Valenti's Mercy Journal for this web page, in addition to numerous other publications of The Marians of the Immaculate Conception.