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Dives in Misericordia

Pope St John Paul II's encyclical on Divine Mercy

given on the First Sunday of Advent on 30th November 1980

- in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak & Spanish

Venerable Brothers, dearest Sons and Daughters,
greeting and Apostolic Blessing!

I. He who sees me, sees the Father (cf John 14, 9)

1. Revelation of Mercy

"God rich in mercy" (Eph 2, 4) is the One whom Jesus Christ has revealed to us as Father: it is precisely his own Son, who has manifested Him and made Him known in Himself (cf Jn 1, 18; Heb 1, 1f).   Memorable in this regard is the moment when Philip, one of the twelve apostles, turning to Christ, said: "Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied"; and Jesus replied to him: "Have I been with you so long and you do not know me...? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." (Jn 14, 8). These words were spoken during the farewell discourse, at the end of the paschal supper, which was followed by the events of those holy days during which had to confirm, once and for all that "God, (who is) rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He has loved us, even when we were dead through our sins, made us alive again with Christ" (Eph 2, 4).

Following the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council and adhering to/considering the particular needs of the times in which we live, I dedicated the encyclical Redemptor hominis to the truth about man, which in its fullness and depth is revealed to us in Christ. A need of no less importance, in these critical and difficult times, impels me to discover once again in (this same) Christ the face of the Father, who is "merciful and God of all consolation" (2 Cor 1, 3). We read indeed in the constitution Gaudium et spes: "Christ, who is the new Adam ... fully reveals man to man himself and brings to light his highest/lofty vocation": he does it "precisely by revealing the mystery of the Father and of his love": (GS 22). The words cited/quoted clearly attest that the manifestation of man, in the full dignity of his nature, cannot take place without reference - a reference not only conceptual but also integrally existential - to God. Man and his supreme vocation are revealed in Christ through the revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love.

It is for this that we should now turn to this mystery: the multiple experiences of the Church and of contemporary man invite us to; the appeals of so many human hearts, their sufferings and hopes, their anxieties and expectations also demand us to. If it is true that every man is, in a certain sense, the way of the Church, as I affirmed in the encyclical Redemptor hominis, at the same time the Gospel and the whole of tradition constantly indicate to us that we must travel this way with every man, just as Christ traced it, by revealing in Himself the Father and His love (cf ibid). In Jesus Christ, every pathway to(wards) man, as it has been assigned once for all to the Church in the changing context of the times, is simultaneously an approach to the Father and to his love. The Second Vatican Council confirmed this truth for our times.

The more the mission carried out by the Church is centered upon man - the more it is, so to speak, anthropocentric - the more it must be affirmed/confirmed and realized theocentrically, that is to say, be orientated in Jesus Christ towards the Father. While the various currents of human thought in the past and present have been and continue to be inclined/likely to divide/separate and even to oppose theocentrism and anthropocentrism, the Church instead/on the contrary, following Christ, seeks to join them (up) in the history of man in an organic and profound/deep way. And this is also one of the fundamental principles, and perhaps the most important one, of the magisterium of the last Council. If therefore in this actual phase of the history of the Church, we propose as the preeminent task of implementing the doctrine of the great Council, we must recall to ourselves precisely this principle with faith, with open minds and with all our hearts. In my encyclical already cited, I sought to underline that the deepening and multiform enrichment of the Church's consciousness, fruit of the same Council, must open our intelligence/intellects and our hearts more fully/widely to Christ Himself. Today I desire to say that openness to Christ, who as Redeemer of the world fully reveals man to man himself, cannot be accomplished other than by an ever more mature reference to the Father and to his love.

2. The Incarnation of Mercy

Although God "dwells in unapproachable light,"8 He speaks to man he means of the whole of the universe: "ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made."9 This indirect and imperfect knowledge, achieved by the intellect seeking God by means of creatures through the visible world, falls short of "vision of the Father." "No one has ever seen God," writes St. John, in order to stress the truth that "the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known."10 This "making known" reveals God in the most profound mystery of His being, one and three, surrounded by "unapproachable light."11 Nevertheless, through this "making known" by Christ we know God above all in His relationship of love for man: in His "philanthropy."12 It is precisely here that "His invisible nature" becomes in a special way "visible," incomparably more visible than through all the other "things that have been made": it becomes visible in Christ and through Christ, through His actions and His words, and finally through His death on the cross and His resurrection.

In this way, in Christ and through Christ, God also becomes especially visible in His mercy; that is to say, there is emphasized that attribute of the divinity which the Old Testament, using various concepts and terms, already defined as "mercy." Christ confers on the whole of the Old Testament tradition about God's mercy a definitive meaning. Not only does He speak of it and explain it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all He Himself makes it incarnate and personifies it. He Himself, in a certain sense, is mercy. To the person who sees it in Him - and finds it in Him - God becomes "visible" in a particular way as the Father who is rich in mercy."13

The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy. The word and the concept of "mercy" seem to cause uneasiness in man, who, thanks to the enormous development of science and technology, never before known in history, has become the master of the earth and has subdued and dominated it.14 This dominion over the earth, sometimes understood in a one - sided and superficial way, seems to have no room for mercy. However, in this regard we can profitably refer to the picture of "man's situation in the world today" as described at the beginning of the Constitution Gaudium et spes. Here we read the following sentences: "In the light of the foregoing factors there appears the dichotomy of a world that is at once powerful and weak, capable of doing what is noble and what is base, disposed to freedom and slavery, progress and decline, brotherhood and hatred. Man is growing conscious that the forces he has unleashed are in his own hands and that it is up to him to control them or be enslaved by them."15

The situation of the world today not only displays transformations that give grounds for hope in a better future for man on earth, but also reveals a multitude of threats, far surpassing those known up till now. Without ceasing to point out these threats on various occasions (as in addresses at UNO, to UNESCO, to FAO and elsewhere), the Church must at the same time examine them in the light of the truth received from God.

The truth, revealed in Christ, about God the "Father of mercies,"16 enables us to "see" Him as particularly close to man especially when man is suffering, when he is under threat at the very heart of his existence and dignity. And this is why, in the situation of the Church and the world today, many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God. They are certainly being moved to do this by Christ Himself, who through His Spirit works within human hearts. For the mystery of God the "Father of mercies" revealed by Christ becomes, in the context of today's threats to man, as it were a unique appeal addressed to the Church.

In the present encyclical wish to accept this appeal; I wish to draw from the eternal and at the same time-for its simplicity and depth- incomparable language of revelation and faith, in order through this same language to express once more before God and before humanity the major anxieties of our time.

In fact, revelation and faith teach us not only to meditate in the abstract upon the mystery of God as "Father of mercies," but also to have recourse to that mercy in the name of Christ and in union with Him. Did not Christ say that our Father, who "sees in secret,"17 is always waiting for us to have recourse to Him in every need and always waiting for us to study His mystery: the mystery of the Father and His love?18

I therefore wish these considerations to bring this mystery closer to everyone. At the same time I wish them to be a heartfelt appeal by the Church to mercy, which humanity and the modern world need so much. And they need mercy even though they often do not realize it.