John Paul II and the Divine Mercy
The devotion to the Divine Mercy is connected with the revelation given to the humble nun Faustina Kowalska from the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy whom in the year 1933 Lord Jesus ordered to proclaim the message of God's mercy to the whole world. The cult of God's mercy began spreading soon after Sr Faustina's death, especially during the years of World War II.
Spreading the message
The Polish soldiers carried the message of God's mercy all over the world. Thanks to the Poles of General Anders's army, created in the USSR in 1941, the message reached Iran, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt and from there it reached Africa and Italy. The devotion has been widely spread in the USA where the number of the worshippers of the Divine Mercy is ca. 800,000 and also spread in South America, Korea and New Zealand. The Society of God's Mercy, embracing members from several countries, is active in Australia. The Canadian community whose members care for morally lost people is a very active pastoral centre and a publishing house.
The worshippers of the Divine Mercy are members of two organisations: the Association of the Apostles of the Divine Mercy 'Faustinum', which has several thousand people from over 40 countries, and the Apostolic Movement of the Divine Mercy with millions of members. The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, whose member was Sister Faustina, and the Congregation of Sisters of Merciful Jesus, founded by the spiritual director of Sr Faustina Fr Michal Sopocko, spread the message of the Divine Mercy.
Witness of Mercy
John Paul II, who beautified Sr Faustina in 1993 and canonised her in the year 2000, was a great worshipper of the Divine Mercy. He knew very well the cloister located on the Lagiewniki hill. During the Nazi occupation he visited it every day on his way to work in the Solvay factory. It is difficult to define when he was there for the first time. The Sisters' chronicles recorded the events of the period when he was a young priest and then the Metropolitan of Krakow, interested in the apostolic work of the congregation and growing devotion to the Divine Mercy in the forms that Sister Faustina had showed. On 7 June 1997 he came to Lagiewniki as Pope. He wholeheartedly wanted to be there and to entrust his pontificate to the Divine Mercy in front of the miraculous picture of Merciful Jesus.
The gift from Lagiewniki to the whole world
In the year 2000, the Holy Father John Paul II sent his message to the sanctuary through a special television broadcast when he canonised Sr Faustina Kowalska in the Vatican on 30 April. He said in the canonisation homily, 'Today my joy is truly great in presenting the life and witness of Sr Faustina Kowalska to the whole Church as a gift of God for our time. By divine Providence, the life of this humble daughter of Poland was completely linked with the history of the 20th century, the century we have just left behind. In fact, it was between the First and Second World Wars that Christ entrusted his message of mercy to her. Those who remember, who were witnesses and participants in the events of those years and the horrible sufferings they caused for millions of people, know well how necessary was the message of mercy. Jesus told Sr Faustina: "Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to divine mercy" (Diary, p. 132). Through the work of the Polish religious, this message has become linked for ever to the 20th century, the last of the second millennium and the bridge to the third. It is not a new message but can be considered a gift of special enlightenment that helps us to relive the Gospel of Easter more intensely, to offer it as a ray of light to the men and women of our time. What will the years ahead bring us? What will man's future on earth be like? We are not given to know. However, it is certain that in addition to new progress there will unfortunately be no lack of painful experiences. But the light of divine mercy, which the Lord in a way wished to return to the world through Sr Faustina's charism, will illumine the way for the men and women of the third millennium [...] How many souls have been consoled by the prayer "Jesus, I trust in you", which Providence intimated through Sr Faustina! This simple act of abandonment to Jesus dispels the thickest clouds and lets a ray of light penetrate every life. Jezu, ufam tobie.
Dedication of the Divine Mercy Shrine
John Paul II arrived in Krakow-Lagiewniki for the second time on 17 August 2002. He dedicated the new sanctuary and entrusted the world to the Divine Mercy. We heard his moving words, 'During the Nazi occupation, when I was working in the Solvay factory near here, I used to come here. Even now I recall the street that goes from Borek Falecki to Debniki that I took every day going to work on the different turns with the wooden shoes on my feet. They're the shoes that we used to wear then. How was it possible to imagine that one day the man with the wooden shoes would consecrate the Basilica of the Divine Mercy at Lagiewniki of Kraków.' In his homily John Paul II said, 'I firmly believe that this new church will always be a place where people will come before God in Spirit and truth. They will come with the trust which accompanies all those who humbly open their hearts to the working of God's merciful love, to that love which is stronger than even the greatest sin. Here, in the fire of divine love, human hearts will burn with desire for conversion, and whoever looks for hope will find comfort. Eternal Father, I offer to you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for our sins and those of the whole world; by the sufferings of his Passion, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world" (Diary, 476). Upon us and upon the whole world [...] How greatly today's world needs God's mercy! In every continent, from the depth of human suffering, a cry for mercy seems to rise up. Where hatred and the thirst for revenge dominate, where war brings suffering and death to the innocent, there the grace of mercy is needed in order to settle human minds and hearts and to bring about peace. Wherever respect for life and human dignity are lacking, there is need of God's merciful love, in whose light we see the inexpressible value of every human being. Mercy is needed in order to ensure that every injustice in the world will come to an end in the splendour of truth. Today, therefore, in this Shine, I wish solemnly to entrust the world to Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God's merciful love, proclaimed here through Saint Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world. May the binding promise of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled: from here there must go forth "the spark which will prepare the world for his final coming" (cf. Diary, 1732). This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness!'
On the eve of the Feast of Divine Mercy 2005
The Holy Father John Paul II passed away to the Father's house on 2 April 2005, on the eve of the Feast of the Divine Mercy, celebrated in the universal Church on the first Sunday after Easter. 'The death came when John Paul II was working on the encyclical on the Divine Mercy as the answer to the phenomenon of globalisation', announced Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Papal Academy of Sciences. The issue of globalisation was a social problem to which John Paul II had devoted much attention. 'The Pope was deeply concerned about the reasons for non-equality that could appear when human freedom would not be properly used to remove the existing gap between the rich and the poor and to balance, if possible, the levels of growth, welfare and justice in the world' said Bishop Sorondo two years ago. John Paul II was aware that Christian mercy could be the answer to the possible gap, which globalisation would leave.
Benedict XVI, one of the closest collaborators of John Paul II who became the Successor to St Peter on 19 April 2005, dedicated his first encyclical 'Deus caritas est' to God's mercy. This is also a sign that Benedict XVI has continued the unique pontificate of his great Predecessor.