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Rich in Mercy: Encyclical - Dives in Misericordia, November 30, 1980

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Blessed are the Merciful

  • Oct 21, 2011
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Divine Mercy is one of the central mysteries of Christian worldview and theology. Like all other such concepts, our everyday experience with human mercy is only partially adequate for its full understanding. Nonetheless, deeper understanding of Divine Mercy can fundamentally reshape and uplift our own attitude and practice of mercy.

In this his second encyclical, Pope John Paul II picks up where he had left off in "The Redeemer of Man" (Redemptor Hominis). While one of the central themes of that encyclical was God's redeeming actions in the world and how they give support to human dignity, "Rich in Mercy" (Dives in Misericordia) stresses the central role that God's mercy plays in these actions. In fact, it could be argued that all of the Christian message could be summed up in the idea of a merciful God whose every salvific action stems from the utmost transcendental mercy. We are all called not only to partake of that mercy, but also to extend it in our own lives towards all those that we come in touch with.

One of the most important points that Pope makes in this encyclical is that mercy, when properly understood, is not about the assertion of a power differential between two individuals and/or institutions. Mercy is intrinsically about the communion of two parties, and ultimately an opportunity to participate in the inner life of God. The dichotomy between mercy and justice that is often posited in certain intellectual circles is a false dichotomy. True justice presupposes mercy, and is its intrinsic and inseparable attribute. By working on exercising mercy, as well as promoting the social structures that value and promote mercy, we can build a more fair and just world.

One of the greatest gifts that John Paul II has was his ability to translate the deep theological concepts into the concrete and relevant insights about the world that we live in. This gift is clearly evident in his encyclicals, which is why they will remain fresh and pertinent for the foreseeable future.

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