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Time of mercy: Holy doors close, but mission of mercy continues


Pope Francis walks through a Holy Door as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia, Oct. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Year of Mercy brought more than 20 million pilgrims to Rome, but for Pope Francis, the idea always was that the celebration of God's mercy would be local: have people experience God's love in their parishes and send them out into the world to commit random acts of mercy.

While concrete works of mercy have a social impact, Pope Francis' idea was deeply connected to evangelization, which is why Rome jubilee events were organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. The pope had said he wanted the Holy Year to be "a new step on the church's journey in her mission to bring the Gospel of mercy to each person."

The pope's constant refrain during the Year of Mercy, which began Dec. 8, 2015, was that no one is excluded from the mercy of God, who has shown his love for each person by sacrificing his son for the salvation of all. All can be forgiven, the pope taught over and over again. And once a person experiences just how loving and merciful God has been, the obligation is to reach out to others with that same love and mercy.

Pope Francis made no claim to having invented a church focus on divine mercy. The evangelical trend was already clearly present in when St. John Paul II wrote an encyclical letter on mercy in 1980 and when he beatified and then canonized Sister Faustina Kowalska, known as the "Apostle of Divine Mercy."

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