I keep meaning to read something by Pope Francis. But I have not up until now. Or really I still have not, but this is closer. The Name of God is Mercy was on sale at audible, so I picked it up last week.
It is short, only 3 hours. Two hours of it is a transcribed interview between an Italian reporter and the Pope. The last hour is the official statement on the Year of Mercy.
The interview was interesting. The most striking thing for me was how much of the interview revolved around a discussion of sin. I do not internally connect Mercy and Sin, but Pope Francis did.
Part of this is differences in the theology of sin between Catholics and Protestants. I read George Marsden’s biography of the book Mere Christianity right after this and Marsden has a discussion about the difference between Catholic and Protestant theologies of sin that was helpful. My short, and overly simplistic explanation is that for Protestants, the importance of sin is that it separates us from God. So the real issue for Protestants is that we need forgiveness. And Protestants tend to then focus on the permanence of forgiveness.
Catholics of course agree that sin is a separation from God. But they do not stop there. That separation from God does something to harm the sinner, not just the relationship. So Catholic theology focuses much more on the repair and healing of the individual as part of the process of forgiveness. This is part of why there is not only absolution of sin (which most Protestants assume, but do not received as part of a religious act) but also penance. Penance in most Protestant minds is just 10 hail Mary’s and two Our Fathers and done. But the point of penance is healing of the damage of sin. We cannot heal the damage ourselves, but we can participate in the healing by seeking out both penance and working to restore the object of the sin (seek forgiveness from others, pay back what was stolen, repair what was broken, etc.)
So the Year of Mercy as I understand it from this book is more about building relationship with those that are alienated from the Church, because the Pope want to help bring about healing. I think at least in this point, I am probably more Catholic than Protestant.
I listened to this on an audiobook. And I listened to about 20 minutes of the proclamation for the Year of Mercy and gave up. That type of statement doesn’t translate well to audio and I did not think I really needed it anyway. This is not a book I would highly recommend. The interview was interesting, but it was pretty short. If you found this on sale in a used book bin or at the library, it might be worth reading. But certainly not for $10 or $15.
The Name of God is Mercy by Pope Francis and Andrea Tornielli Purchase Links: