Opening doors and building bridges Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

When he opened the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome at the beginning of the Year of Mercy in December of 2015, Pope Francis declared that people of faith must welcome and experience God’s love and then go out into the world to be instruments of mercy.

The pope added that Christians must be “aware that we will be judged by this.” Being a Christian calls for a lifelong journey and a “more radical commitment” to be merciful like God the Father, Pope Francis said.

During the Year of Mercy, the Holy Father has emphasized that people should live out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The Corporal Works include feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and visiting prisoners. Caring for migrants would certainly fit into these works.

Building bridges

The Holy Father has talked frequently about building bridges among people. So when he responded to a question about Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, Pope Francis was repeating what he has said many times before about building bridges rather than walls between people.

During remarks made at a daily Mass back in 2013 in the chapel of his residence at the Vatican, Pope Francis stressed the courageous attitude of St. Paul, saying he sought to build bridges to proclaim the Gospel.

The pope called St. Paul’s attitude one that “seeks dialogue” and is “closer to the heart” of the listener. The pope said that is the reason why St. Paul was a real pontifex, a “builder of bridges and not of walls.”

Following Jesus’ example

The Holy Father noted that Jesus “spoke with anyone,” including sinners, publicans, and teachers of the law. St. Paul followed the example of Jesus. “The Christian who would bring the Gospel must go down this road, must listen to everyone.”

Pope Francis emphasized, “Christians who are afraid to build bridges and prefer to build walls are Christians who are not sure of their faith, not sure of Jesus Christ.”

Perhaps the Holy Father was referring to bridges between individual people, rather than between countries. But I think his point applies to both cases.

Reaching out to others

In this Year of Mercy, the Holy Father is encouraging Catholics — and all people of good will — to reach out to others in a spirit of generosity and love.

As one example, he made an empassioned plea on February 21 for an international consensus for the abolition of capital punishment. This appeal was in preparation for an international conference on the death penalty, which began in Rome on February 22.

During his trips around the world, Pope Francis has regularly visited prisons and met with inmates. He has called for better prison conditions.

I hope all people of the world — including Christians involved in politics — will heed the Holy Father’s words and work to build bridges of understanding between people of different cultures and life experiences.

The Year of Mercy gives us a special opportunity to reach out to help those in need in our own communities and throughout the world.