Mercy brings Austrian cardinal, Texas death row inmate together

VATICAN CITY — Devotion to divine mercy spurred an Austrian cardinal to correspond with a death row inmate in Texas; Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna said he was shocked at the idea that Richard Masterson could be put to death Jan. 20.

“It’s frightening,” Cardinal Schonborn said at a Vatican news conference Jan. 18. He added that Pope Francis has been informed of the scheduled execution.

Cardinal Schonborn, president of the executive council of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, said that true devotion to divine mercy forms one’s spiritual life, but also impacts one’s family life, commitments in society and personal activity.

“The apostolate of mercy is not just devotion, but charity — mercy in action,” he said.

Visiting prisoners is a traditional work of mercy and the cardinal’s personal contact with Masterson is a symbolic expression of that.

Masterson, 43, was sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder a year earlier of a female impersonator.

Cardinal Schonborn said the Christians in Texas who have visited Masterson “carry out the apostolate of mercy. It is a witness of the Christ’s closeness to this man because they help him experience the merciful heart of Jesus.”

The cardinal was at the Vatican to unveil plans for the European Apostolic Congress on Mercy at the Vatican March 31-April 4 and for the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 16-20, 2017.