Pope Francis is now accepting applications from priests and retired bishops to become Missionaries of Mercy, fulfilling a promise he made in the April Papal Bull Misericordiae Vultus.
The criteria published on the papal website require that Missionaries be “inspiring preachers of Mercy” and “welcoming, loving and compassionate Confessors, who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person.” They are to be “facilitators for all, with no one excluded, of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again.”
Pope Francis will send forth the Missionaries of Mercy from St Peter’s Basilica on Ash Wednesday next year. They will facilitate special initiatives organised for the Jubilee of Mercy, with a particular focus on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Pope will also grant the Missionaries “the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See”.
Such sins include throwing away the consecrated species, or taking it or keeping it for a sacrilegious purpose, and using physical force against the Pope. A number of sins whose pardon is reserved to the Holy See are specific to priests. Anyone who consecrates a bishop or is consecrated bishop without a pontifical mandate may only be pardoned by the Holy See, as may a confessor who violates the sacramental seal or absolves a person with whom he is having an adulterous affair.
Applicants must fill out a short online form, which asks the applicant for basic personal information, details of his ministerial work, and a brief personal introduction. Each application must be supported by a letter of recommendation from the priest’s local bishop or religious superior, testifying to his suitability.