Pope Francis: Why mercy is essential in faith and life

Pope Francis celebrates mass at the Vatican Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pope Francis says Christianity is about "embracing the outcast"

First the album, and now the book.

After the Vatican approved the release of a prog rock album which set to music some of Pope Francis' homilies and speeches, the Pope's new book features him in dialogue with a Vatican expert, Andrea Tornielli.

Its title - The Name of God is Mercy - will be on the cover in a bold red, in the Pope's own handwriting, and will be published around the world on 12 January to coincide with the 2016 Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The book focuses on the theme of mercy, an issue of central importance to this Pope's teaching and testimony, first signalled by the name he took as Pope, after St Francis of Assisi.

In the book, the Pope speaks of his experiences of mercy, starting with his own confession to Father Carlos Duarte Ibarra in 1953 on the Feast of St Matthew the Apostle, when the then Jorge Bergoglio was 17.

The Pope's own distinctive voice as a storyteller shines through; he tells of how he took the cross from the rosary of a priest dear to him and has worn it ever since, touching it when he "has a bad thought" about someone.


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He also speaks of the need for priests to be good confessors, saying that many people these days go to soothsayers or fortune-tellers in the hope that someone will listen to them.

Once in a while, Pope Francis says, he still takes confession, and speaks of the benefits for forgiveness - while warning priests of an "excess of curiosity" on sexual matters.

He advises them to "listen with tenderness".

The Pope describes himself as a sinner, and talks of his "special relationship" with people in prison, "deprived of their freedom".

On his visit to the US last year, he made a point of visiting a jail, and was hugged by several prisoners.

Pope Francis also writes strongly against the death penalty, and the need to help former prisoners reintegrate into society, so they are not left on the margins.

In one chapter, he makes clear that the Church does not exist to condemn people but to bring them to God's mercy, and uses the image of a field hospital, a place for the "urgent care" which is needed "where there is combat".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Pope Francis visited prisoners while visiting the US last year

He also relates the story of a parishioner when he was a parish priest: of a mother with young children, who had to prostitute herself to provide for her children.

She thanked him not for the food that a Catholic charity had sent her, but for continuing to show her respect by calling her senora.

The Pope says he learned from that how important it was to not to wound people's dignity.

On that subject, he is asked to expand on his comment to journalists that "if a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?"

The Pope says that he was paraphrasing by heart the catechism of the Catholic Church which says that people should be "treated with delicacy and not marginalised".

Pope Francis continues that "before all else comes the individual person in his wholeness and dignity".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Even before becoming Pope, Jorge Bergoglio was known for his humble approach

And that he prefers "that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together.

"You can advise them on how to pray, you can show goodwill, you can show them the way, and accompany them along it."

Later, quoting Jesus, the Pope says that what mattered to Christ was reaching "stranded people and saving them, like the Good Shepherd who leaves the flock to save one lost sheep".

Pope Francis also condemns the narrow-mindedness of some among the clergy and his flock who have preconceived notions of "ritual purity", and calls on them to overcome prejudice and rigidity.

He speaks out strongly against corruption in a chapter entitled "Sinners yes, corrupt no", calling the path to corruption a slippery slope.

Pope Francis ends with the message that Christianity is about "embracing the outcast, the marginalized and the sinner", a message that he is seeking to send out across the world in the Catholic Church's Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy.