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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

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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."

Universal Scope
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."

Papal Participation
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 [email protected]. 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.

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Mary Lou - Oct 29, 2007

My heart jumped when I learned of this First World Congress 2008.Joy for my parents who were so devoted to the Divine Mercy. I buried my mother in 2005 & my father in 2006. If they would be around now,they will surely be so delighted to be in Rome. I hope that I can attend for them primarily. Also for my own personal journey with the Divine Mercy devotion, the spiritual legacy my parents left to me.

First World Congress of Divine Mercy! - Oct 9, 2007

I am interested to know if space is still available to join your group in Stockbridge to attend the Congress in Rome next year! Father Bruce Fogle & I who are from the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky had planned on taking a group however, Father since feels their would not be enough interest for such a Congress. Severl of us are still very interested. As coordiantor from our area to attend the Mercy Sunday Celebrations there in Stockbridge starting Year 2000 - 2005 and then a pilgrimage to Poland over the Feast of Saint Faustina last year, I have several people that are most interested in attending the First World Congress of Divine Mercy from here. If you still have room for us, I would like to have some information to promote this trip. In his Divine Mercy, I am...Martha+

mary - Aug 30, 2007

I am grateful to be among to join this for having a good samaritan who is willing to pay for my trip her intial name is DMN,she may not in a good health but she wants me to go,please pray for her,esp.her operation in her spine,and to tell you this is my first to go out of the country ,see Rome March 26 will our departure its my bday,please pray for me and DMN.

Huntington Hollingsworth - Aug 2, 2007

A prediction: this World Congress will turn into the tipping point that unleashes The Divine Mercy on the world. Literally, this Congress will be of universal, and biblical, importance.

kalara Liku Drau - Jul 30, 2007

When learnt about this world congress, I have since been overwhelmed with joy and celebration. May God's Mercy be celebrated and bring overwhelming joy and peace in the hearts of all men!let's celebrate this triumphant moment in this age where nothing else but the Mercy of God will rule the entire world.
Hooray Lord! You Are KING ! YOU are MERCY!

Kalara Liku - Jul 29, 2007

Divine Mercy World Congress in Rome. The era we're all waiting for when all other major religions of the world voluntarily accept to join in the worls's triumphant celebration of and in mercy. May the Divine Mercy make people's hearts rich in mercy and fill them to over-flowing with mercy.
Tiem for mercy is indeed knocking at every one's door.
Hooray God of Mercy! I always know that you are the Greatest and Omnipotent! Please forgive us and help ua forgive others. help me to be like you in Mercy!

silvana - pangasinan - Jul 28, 2007

after attending the asian pre-congress in manila, i've been very excited for the world congress in rome and yes, as a representative of our archdiocese, i will definitely attend. may our merciful Jesus allow this to happen.

Dan Valenti - Jul 20, 2007

I'm delighted to hear that you plan to attend the Congress in Rome. I think it will prove to be a defining moment in the worldwide spread of this vital message.
From Eden Hill, I send blessings and love.

joy - Jul 20, 2007

with God's providence, we the members of the divine mercy in Cebu,Philippines are joining the world congress, we hope and pray that in His great mercy God will make this possible for us and also with your fervent prayers. Thank you and God Bless Us All!

mary sumalinog -Davao - Jul 19, 2007

yes we will get there,we the divine mercy apostolate here in davao city ,philippines are joining the world congress.please join us in your prayers for this event.God bless