"This love of mercy also illuminates the face of the Church...Everything that the Church says and does shows that God has mercy for man," he observed.
Pope Francis recounted how the idea to have a Jubilee of Mercy came to him, explaining that the decision "came through prayer, through reflection on the teachings and declarations of the Popes who preceded me, and by thinking of the Church as a field hospital, where treatment is given above all to those who are most wounded."
He said the first seeds were planted while he was still in Buenos Aires. At one point a roundtable discussion was held with theologians on what the pope at that time could do to bring people closer together.
One of the participants in the roundtable had suggested "a Holy Year of forgiveness," Francis recalled, saying the idea "stayed with me."
Reflecting on his own life, Pope Francis said that although he doesn't remember having a first encounter with mercy as a child, one scripture passage he has always found syntony with is Ezekiel chapter 16.
In the passage, the Lord sees a newborn infant left to die and has compassion on her. He takes her in, anoints her and adorns her, only for her to later become a harlot enamored with her own beauty. In order to remind her of her origins, God placed her "above her sisters," so that she would remember and be ashamed for what she had done.
God's mercy makes us feel shame for ourselves and our sin, the Pope said, explaining that "shame is a grace: when one feels the mercy of God, he feels a great shame for himself and for his sin."
Shame is "a grace" that St. Ignatius also prayed for, Francis noted, and pointed to Fr. Gaston Fessard's book "The Dialectic of the 'Spiritual Exercises' of St. Ignatius," which he called "a beautiful essay by a great scholar of spirituality," on the topic of shame.
He also pointed to a specific confession he had at the age of 17 on the Feast of St Matthew with a priest named Carlos Duarte Ibarra as being especially impactful.
Fr. Duarte is one example that Pope Francis pointed to as a merciful priest, and said that others he has met include Fr. Enrico Pozzoli, the Salesian who baptized him and married his parents, as well as a young Capuchin priest he met in Buenos Aires.
Elise Harris was senior Rome correspondent for CNA from 2012 to 2018.