Vatican encourages works of mercy through new social media campaign

Homeless man Credit Dmytro Zinkevych Shutterstock CNA Dmytro Zinkevych via Shutterstock.

In honor of all "workers and volunteers of mercy," the Vatican is encouraging those who volunteer in different service opportunities to share their testimony on social media with the hashtag #BeMercy.

Launched by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the #BeMercy initiative is meant to coincide with the special Sept. 2-4 Jubilee for Workers and Volunteers of Mercy, and is part of Pope Francis' wider Holy Year of Mercy.

"Charity, love and mercy are different words to express the same reality: God's love," Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for the New Evangelization, told CNA in an interview.

"God is close to you and God is always helping you," he said, noting that love, charity and mercy aren't limited to just helping people, but "become a great witness for us in the moment we are able to forgive people."

"That will be really the challenge for us today: to be witnesses of pardon and forgiveness."

The idea to share testimonies of volunteer service is meant to show the fact that within the Church there are many who daily perform the concrete works of mercy Pope Francis has encouraged during the Holy Year.

Since the new initiative is meant to be a special part of the special Jubilee for Workers and Volunteers of Mercy, the council is asking that faithful take to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., to share how they have volunteered their time serving others with the hashtag #BeMercy.

For those who might not know if they qualify as a volunteer of mercy, Archbishop Fisichella said those who fall into the category include "everybody who takes care of a friend or sister. Everybody who is in the condition to help people daily, in silence, in a concrete way, visiting sick people, visiting prisoners, helping poor people, assisting people who are hungry."

"We have an infinite way of (living the) works of mercy and in this way we have infinite workers of mercy," he said, adding that everyone in this category is invited to join the jubilee celebration in order "to receive the thank you of Pope Francis."

Official events for the Jubilee of Workers and Volunteers of Mercy start Friday, Sept. 2 with adoration and confessions in designated churches throughout Rome, followed by a welcoming ceremony at Castel Sant'Angelo, which sits at the end of Via Conciliazione, the large street leading up to St. Peter's Basilica.

The following morning, jubilee participants will have a special audience with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square during which he will give a catechesis on themes related to the Holy Year.

After the audience, pilgrims will have the opportunity to pass through the basilica's Holy Door, and attend adoration and confession in certain parishes.

On Sunday, Sept. 4, the jubilee will conclude with the canonization Mass for Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, considered one of the greatest witnesses of mercy in our time, celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square.

Speaking of Mother Teresa's witness to mercy, Archbishop Fisichella said that in addition to honoring all those who give their time in service to others with a special jubilee, Pope Francis also wanted to provide "spiritual assistance" to all those who work in the field, and "who will be the icon of mercy in our sanctuary except Mother Teresa?"

Mother Teresa, he said, "was close to the poorest among the poor and probably for this reason Pope Francis had this inspiration to canonize Mother Teresa and to give a concrete sign how we can be workers of mercy daily."

Even if Mother Teresa isn't officially declared a patron for workers of mercy, "she is the icon and the spiritual assistance for everybody," the archbishop said.

On the topic of security, Archbishop Fisichella stressed that Italian and Vatican police are taking extra precautions to ensure everyone's safety, so there is no need to fear.

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Though groups and pilgrims are still trickling into Rome, the city has already begun to fill up ahead of Mother Teresa's canonization Sunday.

Archbishop Fisichella said that while he doesn't have a number as to how many pilgrims might show up, nearly 500,000 came when Padre Pio's remains were brought to Rome for the launch of the Jubilee, and "so I think that more or less it will be the same number" for Mother Teresa.

For those who aren't able to make it to the Mass or who aren't even Catholic, Mother Teresa serves as "a universal sign of goodness, of piety, of mercy, of love," and will be appreciated as such throughout the world, the archbishop said.

He pointed to Mother Teresa's often repeated phrase that "I probably don't speak your language, but I can smile," noting that one doesn't have to be Catholic to share in this act of mercy, because "smiling is a universal language."

"When you are a witness of mercy, a witness of charity, a witness of God's love," he said, "a smile, joy, is your universal language."

Though he never met Mother Teresa personally, Archbishop Fisichella said he has met and spent time with the Missionaries of Charity on several occasions, and "they continue to work with the witness of Mother Teresa, with the ideal of Mother Teresa and with the same charity."

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