Francis: Who are you to shut the door of mercy for someone?

Vatican City — Pope Francis has again forcefully emphasized the Catholic church's need to be merciful, pointedly asking who Christians that do not allow someone to renter the church community think they are.

Speaking Tuesday during his daily homily at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Francis asked bluntly: "Who are you who shuts the door of your heart to a man, a woman who wants to improve, to return back into the people of God, because the Holy Spirit has stirred his or her heart?"

The church, the pontiff said, is "the home of Jesus and Jesus welcomes -- but not only welcomes, [he] goes to find people."

"And if people are hurt, what does Jesus do?" asked Francis. "Scolds them because they are hurt? No, he comes and carries them on his shoulders."

"This is called mercy," the pope continued. "And when God reprimands his people -- 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice!' -- he speaks of this."

Francis' emphasis Tuesday on the need for mercy from Catholics comes just days after the pope announced Friday that he will be convoking in December an extraordinary jubilee year for the Catholic church to be called the Holy Year of Mercy.

The pope has made mercy a central theme of his papacy. On Friday he said he wanted to call the holy year -- a special time for Catholics to receive blessing and pardon from God and remission of sins -- so that the church "can make more evident its mission of being a witness of mercy."

Francis was speaking of mercy Tuesday as part of a reflection on the daily Mass readings, the first of which is a passage in which the prophet Ezekiel sees a vision of water overflowing and providing life for those near the temple in Jerusalem. The Gospel for the day sees Jesus heal a man who had been paralytic and could not even wash himself.

Using the imagery of water from both readings, the pope spoke of men and women who may have made mistakes in their lives but now feel "that the waters are moving" and they want to come back to the Christian community.

"And how many times today in Christian communities [they] find closed doors: 'But you cannot, no, you cannot,'" said the pope, imitating someone who prevents such people from reentering the community.

"'You have done wrong here and you cannot,'" Francis continued the imitation. "'If you want to come, come to Mass on Sunday, but stay there, but do not do more.'"

Summing up how he feels about such a situation, the pontiff said: "That which the Holy Spirit does in the hearts of people, Christians with the psychology of doctors of the law destroy."

"Today we ask the Lord in the Mass for us, for each of us and for the whole Church, a conversion towards Jesus, a conversion to Jesus, a conversion to the mercy of Jesus," Francis ended his homily. "And so the law will be fully fulfilled, because the law is to love God and neighbor, as ourselves."

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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