By Roy Lagarde, CBCP News
Pope Francis has appointed four Filipino priests to a special mission: to further spread the works of mercy.
Named as new “missionaries of mercy” are Fr. Allan Morris Abuan, Fr. Danille Chad Pecson, Fr. Matt Jason Molina, and Fr. Roy Joel Rosal from the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan.
These bring the number of missionaries of mercy in the Philippines to 11, including six other Filipinos and a foreign missionary, who received the same papal mandate in February 2016.
Around a thousand priests have been tapped by the pope to become missionaries of mercy from all over the world during the Jubilee of Mercy that was celebrated from December 2015 to November 2016.
For the past few years, the Filipino missionaries have been working to offer an avenue for mercy through their daily ministries, including talks and retreats in and outside the country.
An emphasis on confession is also central to their work.
Each priest was granted special authority to pardon sins that carry penalties that only the Vatican can lift, such as an attempt against the life of the pope or a priest who violates the seal of confession.
The country’s other missionaries of mercy appointed by Pope Francis in 2016 are (from left) Fr. Jerome Ponce, Fr Andrew Rañoa, Fr. Joe Litigio, Fr. Darek Drzewiecki, Fr. Jose Lito Escote and Fr. Robert Manansala. Not in the photo is Fr. Andres Rañoa.
The pope also gave the missionaries the power to forgive abortion, a right previously reserved for bishops or special confessors.
“The Church wants to bring the grace of forgiveness to everyone,” said Franciscan Fr. Jerome Ponce, who is also a missionary of mercy. “Usually we offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the parishes”.
The new appointments came nearly four years after the pope prolonged their ministry even after the holy year ended as part of the New Evangelization.
The missionaries’ role is seen as a way to help people who have, for whatever reason, fallen away from the Church or find its teachings irrelevant.
“During the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, in an apostolic letter, Pope Francis praised the many fruits of the efforts of the missionaries of mercy around the world and extended the mandate indefinitely so as to continue the ‘concrete sign that the grace of the Jubilee remains alive and effective the world over,’” Fr. Ponce said.
The other missionaries of mercy in the Philippines are Franciscan priests Andrew Litigio, Joe Litigio, Robert Manansala, Andres Rañoa, Fr. Jose Lito Escote of the Antique diocese, and Davao City-based Fr. Darek Drzewiecki of the Congregation of the Marian Fathers.