Pope Francis has called the Missionaries of Mercy to be “signs of this mercy of the Lord,” he said – and the first aspect of this call “is to make ourselves very available in bringing about that reconciliation of God through the sacred ministry of Confession.”
“The second main thrust of this year is for the Missionaries of Mercy to preach about mercy” much like Christ did in his parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son.
Fr. Landry, who also works for the Holy See's Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations in New York, was one of the 700 some missionaries who made it to their official commissioning by Pope Francis in Rome Feb. 10, on Ash Wednesday.
More than 1,000 priests have been selected as missionaries from every continent to be Pope Francis' special ambassadors of mercy throughout world.
In addition to the emphasis on their role as preachers and confessors, the Missionaries of Mercy have also been given two special faculties that are usually unavailable to the average priest. First, they will not be limited in geographic location in terms of hearing confessions.
Usually a priest has to ask permission from the local bishop before hearing confessions in a diocese other than their own, however for the Missionaries of Mercy that is not the case.
Also, a second aspect of the Missionaries' mission is that they are able to absolve sins in cases otherwise reserved to the Holy See. Though there are several such sins, the Holy See has clarified that the faculties of the Missionaries of Mercy are limited to just four.
Namely, they are: Profaning the Eucharistic species by taking them away or keeping them for a sacrilegious purpose; the use of physical force against the Roman Pontiff; the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment (“thou shalt not commit adultery”) and a direct violation against the sacramental seal by a confessor.
Bishops will be able to contact Missionaries of Mercy nearby and invite them to come to their dioceses.
Fr. Landry said that when the missionaries are invited by a bishop to come to a diocese, the concrete things they'll actually do depends on what that particular bishop wants.
“Every pastor, every bishop that writes a Missionary of Mercy in will have a general idea of how best to put him to work,” he said, explaining that in most places they will likely be invited to preach and hear confessions in forums such as congresses, youth conventions, events for families and pilgrimages.
Pope Francis is clearly trying to send a message, that don't let any sin keep you away, no matter what you've done.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Fr. Landry stressed the importance of taking advantage of the Sacrament of Confession, especially during the Jubilee of Mercy. He noted how Pope Francis has often said that his own life changed Sept. 21, 1953, when he was just 16 after spontaneously asked Fr. Carols Ibarra Duarte to hear his confession in the basilica of San Jose of Flores in Buenos Aires.
What the future priest and Pope encountered was “God there waiting for him,” Fr. Landry said, adding that this is what Francis now wants for everyone: “an encounter with God and his mercy.”
This is especially obvious from the fact that the Pope is allowing the Missionaries of Mercy to absolve certain reserved sins, he said.
“Pope Francis is clearly trying to send a message, that don't let any sin keep you away, no matter what you've done…even if your sins bleed scarlet don't be afraid, just come.”
The act of allowing an average priest to remove the censures in place due to certain grave sins is an way of reaching out to people carrying “extraordinarily heavy interior baggage,” and telling them that the Church “is waiting for them with a welcoming mat, saying 'come,'” the priest said.
Fr. John Paul Zeller, a Friar with the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word and a Missionary of Mercy from Birmingham, Ala., told CNA that when it comes to absolving the reserved sins, there is a special formula that confessors use which lifts the censure incurred when the sin was committed.