Vatican accepting applications from potential ‘missionaries of mercy’

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is looking for a few good “missionaries of mercy,” priests who are known for their preaching and their dedication to hearing confessions and granting absolution.

Pope Francis is embraced by an Argentine woman during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 12. (CNS photo | Remo Casilli, Reuters)

If they have their bishop’s or superior’s support, priests interested in being one of the special communicators of God’s mercy are invited to apply online.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, the office Pope Francis charged with coordinating the Holy Year of Mercy, which begins Dec. 8, posted a list of desired qualities and the application form on the Year of Mercy website.

The missionaries will be commissioned formally by the pope and sent out Feb. 10, Ash Wednesday.

The council said the missionaries are to be “a living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness.” They should be “inspiring preachers of mercy; heralds of the joy of forgiveness; welcoming, loving and compassionate confessors, who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person.”

With an invitation from a local bishop, the missionaries will preach and administer the sacrament of reconciliation during special Year of Mercy events, the council said.

When Pope Francis announced the Holy Year of Mercy, he said he would give the “missionaries of mercy” special authority or faculties “to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.”

Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said the reference to “reserved” sins refers to actions that can bring with them automatic excommunication, for example, abortion when the person is aware of the penalty and commits the sin anyway.

If the person is repentant, he said, the missionaries will be able to remove the excommunication and grant absolution in those cases, which normally require the intervention or permission of the local bishop or the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court.