Vatican Major Penitentiary: Mercy Does Not Cease Amid Coronavirus

The Apostolic Penitentiary is the Holy See's tribunal with responsibility for the internal forum and indulgences.

(photo: Unsplash.)

VATICAN CITY — In an Easter letter to confessors on Saturday, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary wrote that while 'social distancing' is necessary amid the coronavirus, 'mercy does not cease'.

Despite the restrictions placed by many civil and ecclesial governors, “Mercy does not cease and God does not distance himself,” Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the Major Penitentiary, wrote April 4.

“The social distancing required for health reasons, while necessary, cannot and must never turn into ecclesial distancing, let alone theological-sacramental distancing,” he added.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is the Holy See's tribunal with responsibility for the internal forum and indulgences.

Cardinal Piacenza recalled his March 19 decree granting plenary indulgences to those suffering from Covid-19, asd well as health-care workers, their family, and those who care for them in any capacity; as well as an attached note on the sacrament of confession calling for reflection on its “urgency and centrality.”

In his letter to confessors, the Major Penitentiary wrote: “Mercy does not cease because where ordinary celebration of the sacrament is impossible, we are committed to pray, to console, to present souls to divine Mercy, fulfilling that priestly role of intercessors, which was conferred on us on the day of ordination.”

“Mercy does not cease because we all need the closeness and the 'caress' of Jesus, which also materializes in a moment of listening and dialogue, capable of opening a perspective of hope and light, in this circumstance of trial.”

Mercy “is expressed in the pastoral creativity of so many confreres,” he said, “who try in every way to make themselves close to the people entrusted to them, giving testimony of faith, courage, fatherhood, fully living their priesthood.”

Nor does mercy cease “because the sacrifice of the Holy Mass does not cease, even if celebrated without the physical presence of the people, from which every grace flows for the Church and for the world.”

Cardinal Piacenza wrote that “from the Cross, the bloody sacrifice of Christ, the possibility of salvation and reconciliation is given to all men; salvation also flows from the Eucharistic celebration, the bloodless sacrifice of Christ, the current re-presentation of the bloody one. In this sense, despite today's dramatic circumstances, we are called to rediscover the centrality of the priestly ministry and, above all, what is essential in it: the work of Christ more than ours, the sacramental implementation of salvation, of which we are ministers, that is, servants.”

“Mercy does not cease but is expressed in every consideration to which the pandemic pushes us, in the rediscovery of the values for which it is worth living and dying, in the rediscovery of silence, of adoration and of prayer, in the rediscovery of the closeness of the other and, above all, of God.”

Neither does mercy cease, he said, “at the celebration of the sacred liturgy, which faithfully actualizes the mysteries of salvation, but becomes lived charity, which extends a helping hand to those who suffer,  and through the priestly ministry God's forgiveness is offered.”

“Mercy does not cease even towards those who have been called to eternity because each of them is reached by the prayers of suffrage in the paschal certainty that with death, relationships are not broken but are transformed, strengthened, in the communion of saints.”

Cardinal Piacenza concluded urging that confessors “entrust this time, our ministry of Reconciliation, and this Easter so anomalous, to the protection of the Holy Virgin, Mother of Mercy in the certainty of her intercession so that each and every one may be given that new life, which is the yearning of every believer and of every man.”