VIENNA, Austria, APRIL 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The first world congress on mercy will open on the third anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, announced the archbishop of Vienna.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn revealed Monday in a press conference that the 1st World Apostolic Congress on Mercy will be held April 2-6, 2008, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
The cardinal said that the opening date of the congress was chosen purposely to coincide with the anniversary of the death of John Paul II as the call to be “witnesses of mercy” was an essential message of the Pontiff.
During statements to the press, Cardinal Schönborn repeated the words of the Pope at the consecration of the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakau-Lagiewniki in 2002: “Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for humanity.”
Lagiewniki is where the nun and mystic St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) lived with her congregation. John Paul II canonized the Polish religious April 30, 2000, and announced on the same day that “throughout the world, the second Sunday of Easter will receive the name of Divine Mercy Sunday.”
Cardinal Schönborn said: “Many believers took it as a sign the fact that John Paul II died on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday.”
The cardinal said that the Divine Mercy event will have an interreligious component through the participation of Jews, Muslims and Buddhists: “The congress is to be a bridge to other religions, but also reaching out to agnostics and atheists.”
Cardinal Schönborn added that the Church is often criticized for its “doctrinal narrowness” and “moral rigidness.”
That is why, the cardinal said, the first world congress on mercy is intended to give a “very radical encouragement” to rediscover the core of the Gospel, that is to say, mercy.
Father Patrice Chocholski, the secretary-general of the congress, said that the aim of the event is to spread the message of mercy to the greatest number of people, “because mercy can change the world.”
Father Chocholski also reported that many other Christian churches and other religious communities, including representatives of Buddhism and Hinduism, have manifested an interest in the congress.
The priest added that he presented the congress to Patriarch Alexy II of the Russian Orthodox Church, and that he was very enthusiastic.
Cardinal Schönborn said that the idea for the initiative was proposed during the Vienna City Mission in 2000.
The idea for a World Congress on Mercy then matured during a meeting in Lagiewniki in 2004 to promote the spiritual testament of John Paul II, namely the “call to divine mercy.”