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Missionary of Mercy travels to Rome for conclusion of Jubilee Year

| Wednesday, November 30, 2016

After ministering communion during the concluding Mass of the Jubilee Year and returning the chalice and remaining hosts to St. Peter’s Basilica, Fr. Joe Corpora realized he was in the same vicinity as the Pope and joined a crowd of priests waiting to meet him.

“I didn’t go back to my seat,” he said. “I quickly wandered into the crowd of all the priests and just sort of found my way, standing there as if I belonged. And then I just kept inching up.”

WEB 11998_20112016 (1)Photo courtesy of Fr. Joe Corpora
Fr. Joe Corpora speaks to Pope Francis in Rome last week. Corpora served as a Missionary of Mercy during the Church’s Jubilee Year.

In April 2015, Pope Francis announced an Extraordinary Year of Holy Mercy — a Jubilee Year — a time to be dedicated to themes of mercy, forgiveness and solidarity. Corpora, a priest in residence in Dillon Hall, served as a Missionary of Mercy, commissioned by the Pope last December at the beginning of the Jubilee Year.

Corpora traveled to Rome to celebrate the conclusion of the Year of Mercy on Nov. 19 and 20. When he met the Pope, Corpora thanked him.

“I said to him: ‘Thank you very much for sending me out as a Missionary of Mercy. I’m very grateful.’ And then he [the Pope] says: ‘Oh,’— and he points his finger — ‘First of all, thank you, but it’s not over yet.’  And then I thanked him for what he did for the Church and for the world. And I said ‘I love you,’ and I just lunged out and hugged him,” Corpora said.

After the concluding Mass, Pope Francis sent an Apostolic Letter — a letter bearing the name of the Pope — to the Missionaries of Mercy to inform them that although the Jubilee Year had ended, their ministry had not.

“This extraordinary ministry does not end with the closing of the Holy Door,” the letter said. “I wish it to continue until further notice as a concrete sign that the grace of the Jubilee remains alive and effective the world over.”

Corpora said the job of the missionaries was to be especially available to hear confessions and give presentations on mercy. 

“What the Holy Father asked is that we do the following things: hear confessions as often as we were asked to hear them, and give talks and conferences on mercy and — specifically and as much as possible — to hear the confessions of priests also,” Corpora said.

Corpora said hearing the confessions of other priests was a special blessing, as it gave him the opportunity to help priests understand the message of mercy they share with others.

“A particular grace of the year has been hearing confessions of priests,” he said. “You know, priests desperately want to believe what they tell other people: God is merciful, God is forgiving, God understands. We all tell that to people — hopefully we do — but somehow you can’t tell it to yourself.”

“It’s like, you know, you can’t tickle yourself,” he added. “Someone else has to tickle you. So priests can’t tell themselves about God’s mercy — someone else has to do it. So I feel privileged to have heard the confessions of many, many, many priests during the year, to tell them what they’ve been telling others is true for them too.”

Corpora said that according to Pope Francis, mercy provides the context for all other values.

“The way the Pope would say it, all the other values have to be understood in terms of mercy,” Corpora said. “So, there’s a lot of people that would say ‘If you have too much mercy, you have no justice.’ The Pope would say it — and I don’t know how really to understand this — but even God’s justice is understood in terms of God’s mercy.”

Corpora says he believes the Year of Mercy will continue to have an impact, although it has ended, if people deliberately choose to live it out daily.

“There’s a danger that it won’t [continue to have an impact] because even though a year is a long time, it’s trying to make a dent in what really has been the Church at its worst, when it has not seemed merciful,” he said.

“But I believe, you know, as the Pope says in his Apostolic Letter, the Year of Mercy is not meant to be a parenthesis in the life of the Church, but the very foundation of the Church,” he said. “So the only way it will impact the Church is if people continue to make it an intentional way of life.”

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