Abp. Aymond asks forgiveness for church’s sins
Archbishop Gregory Aymond opened the Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday – the first Sunday after Easter – by being grateful for St. Faustina and God’s mercy, asking forgiveness for the failures and sins of the Catholic Church and praying for healing of those who have been injured by the church.
Echoing Pope Francis’ response to reporters to the question of who he was, Archbishop Aymond told those gathered for the Mass of Divine Mercy during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, “You and I come before the Lord and we say, ‘I am a sinner.’”
“As we do so,” the archbishop continued, “the Lord God asks us to accept from him the gift of mercy and forgiveness, to be assured that we are indeed forgiven. But he also calls that we forgive ourselves ... to let go of the burdens of the past.”
Show mercy to others
Once Divine Mercy is accepted, he said, one also must adopt a forgiving heart and show mercy to others.
The church is the people of God who, Archbishop Aymond said, can be both holy and sinful, singling out leaders of the church who have sinned.
He knelt before the image of Divine Mercy and asked for God’s mercy on behalf of the church, “especially (for) those times when our church leaders have been unfaithful to you and others. ... I will ask God to heal us, especially the leaders and also to heal those we have been hurt and to bring light into our darkness.”
Archbishop Aymond explicitly asked God’s mercy for the most evident sin in the church, in modern times – the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and also the cover-up of the abuse.
“For that today, in a very special way, we ask, ‘Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.’”
Ritual of forgiveness
He asked the congregation to kneel for the “Ritual of Forgiveness and Resurrection.” In between each enumeration of a sin and an appeal to the Lord Jesus for mercy, the congregation sang, “Christ Be Our Light, Shine on Your Church Living Today.”
Archbishop Aymond petitioned God for forgiveness for those who have been hurt by the church, such as those who have been victimized through “sexual abuse of minors, racism, slavery, sexism and human trafficking.” He also cited judgmentalism, infighting and “unnecessary criticism that hurts people” as sins for which to ask forgiveness.
He begged forgiveness for “selfishness and dishonesty, our lack of care for the disabled, insensitivity to all we serve and not reaching out to those who feel excluded by language, culture race or sexual orientation.”
“Lord Jesus, please forgive us for not reaching out adequately to those who have had abortions, for not fostering a welcoming community in the church, our cynicism and ignorance of heart.
“Lord Jesus, we come before you and ask that you please forgive us for being closed-minded to the ideas of others, forgive us for the lack of respect of people, other Christian religions and people of other religions and especially our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters.
“Forgive us for not caring adequately for unwed mothers, the aged, the sick, the homeless on our streets, the addicted and for not being attentive to our environment, and not caring for prisoners. We beg you in your mercy to give us light.
“Lord Jesus, you have entrusted this world to us. You have called us to be your church, the people of God and to foster your kingdom ... For any way we have not fulfilled that dream of yours, we ask for your mercy.
“Lord Jesus, I beg for mercy in a particular way for myself and all leaders of the church who in any way have injured your people. Please forgive us, give us a new heart and a new spirit and heal the wounds we have created in your faithful people.”
Before the Divine Mercy Mass began, the sacrament of reconciliation was offered, the rosary was recited and the Divine Mercy chaplet was sung. During Mass, Archbishop Aymond blessed a replica of the image of the Divine Mercy that St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who was a Sister of Our Lady of Mercy in the 1930s, saw with rays of red and white emanating from his heart.
In her diary, St. Faustina recorded the Lord’s words to her about his mercy and asked her to spread this mercy worldwide using this image of him. “The pale ray stands for the water which makes souls righteous; the red ray stands for the blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of my most tender mercy at that time when my agonizing heart was opened by a lance on the cross. ... Fortunate is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him.”
Pope John Paul II formally established the Divine Mercy feast as a decree on May 5, 2000. Divine Mercy Sunday “celebrates Christ rising from the dead and thereby bringing everlasting life to mankind, which is the ultimate act of God’s Divine Mercy.”
After Mass, many knelt before the altar to say prayers and venerate a relic of St. Faustina. Archbishop Aymond also blessed pictures of the Divine Mercy.