Bianca Reátegui

The Pope of mercy

By  Bianca Reátegui, Youth Speak News
  • April 3, 2015

For the first time in months, I was feeling nervous about going to Confession. I had a sense of dread as I imagined reading my lengthy examination of conscience to my confessor. The worry of never again being able to look my priest in the eye lingered at the back of my mind as I scrambled to prepare to receive the sacrament.

Remembering that Pope Francis had offered a couple of tips on preparing for Confession, I decided to look up his advice online. It was early on in my search that I read a news article stating that the Pope had announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, beginning Dec. 18.

An extraordinary jubilee! A Holy Year of Mercy! Okay, I wasn’t exactly sure what all of it meant, but it was a comforting announcement for somebody with the pre-Confession jitters, a reminder of the human need for God’s mercy.

Pope Francis has aptly been called “the Pope of mercy.” He asserts, “We must always consider the person… In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.”

Since his papal election, he has certainly extended mercy to the marginalized and oppressed — to the poor, the homeless, the convicted. He was moved to install a barbershop for the homeless in the Vatican after a homeless man turned down an invitation to dinner at the Vatican “because he was embarrassed of his smell.”

I was in awe when I read reports that Pope Francis had apparently met personally with a Spanish transgender man, Diego Neria Lejárraga, on Jan. 24. Although the Vatican never confirmed the meeting, Lejárraga said he was welcomed with open arms. My mind went to the millions of Catholics around the world when I read the news.

I was bowled over when I read that during their meeting,  according to Lejárraga, the Pope told him, “You are a son of God and the Church loves you and accepts you as you are.”

Of course, the Pope was doing nothing more than showing basic respect for this man, nothing more than is expected.
If the reports are true, by accepting a man who said he had been called “the devil’s daughter” by a priest, the Pope set an example for the billion members of the Catholic Church.

The Pope didn’t stop there: on March 21, he requested to have lunch with 90 inmates (10 of them being gay, transgender and/or HIV-positive) at an Italian prison. He chastised the faithful who refuse to associate with prisoners and convicts in a homily on Feb. 20, asking his audience, “Do you have room in your heart for prisoners in jail?” Quick to humble his listeners, he said, “If you’re not in prison it’s because our Lord has helped you not to sin.”

(Reátegui, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Holy Name of Mary Catholic Secondary School, in Brampton, Ont.)

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