This year’s Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season have taken on a special connotation and colour, occurring during the current Jubilee Year of Mercy. Pope Francis marked the beginning of the Church's Lenten journey by sending out several hundred religious and diocesan priests from around the world as "Missionaries of Mercy" to their local churches and communities. At the Feb. 10 Ash Wednesday Mass in Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pope officially commissioned 762 priests with the task, empowering them to forgive even the sins that are reserved for the Holy See to pardon. The original plan of the Holy Father was to have just 800 Missionaries of Mercy. But with overwhelming requests from around the world, he ended up choosing over 1,000. Of these, 762 were specially invited to the Vatican for the official ceremony.
The Holy Father sent out the Missionaries of Mercy in the presence of the relics of two great apostles of the sacrament of confession – Capuchin priests, Sts. Leopold Mandic and Padre Pio. Their mortal remains had been brought to Rome on the Pope’s special request, to highlight the mercy of the Father in the sacrament of reconciliation.
Among the 762 Missionaries of Mercy who came to the Vatican to receive the official mandate, were some 8 Indians. We talked with one of them - Fr. S. Panneer Selvam, the director of Suvarta Kendra in Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh, the national centre for New Evangelization of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), the association of India’s Latin rite bishops. He had applied to the Vatican online, with recommendations from bishops. Last week, in the first of a 2-part interview, Fr. Selvam, who is also the executive secretary of CCBI’s commission for proclamation, said that the mercy is the heart of Gospel as Pope Francis points out in ‘Misericordia Vultus’ (Merciful Face), the Bull of Indiction that spells out the mission and vision of the Year of Mercy. He said the Missionaries of Mercy are asked to help people personally experience mercy and in turn become instruments or agents of mercy. Fr. Selvam said his Suvarta Kendra has designed a special 8-session course entitled “Merciful like the Father”, for “a deeper experience of God’s mercy and to help all to be authentic witnesses of Mercy.” Well, today, in the final of this 2-part interview, we asked Fr. Selvam about the sacrament of confession.