Pope Francis has underscored that the feast of the Immaculate Conception expresses the grandeur of God’s love, and that God's love is manifested in being merciful. In his homily this morning in St. Peter's Square for the Mass which opened the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as well as marked the Marian Solemnity, the Pontiff stated this, noting, "Not only does he forgive sin, but in Mary he even averts the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world." While explaining that this is the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves, he added, "Yet the history of sin can only be understood in the light of God’s love and forgiveness." "Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy. The word of God which we have just heard leaves no doubt about this. The Immaculate Virgin stands before us as a privileged witness of this promise and its fulfillment."
This Extraordinary Holy Year, Francis noted, is itself a gift of grace. To pass through the Holy Door, which Pope Francis opened today and even his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI passed through as well, means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. Pope Benedict was present at today's opening ceremony, after having accepted a personal invitation from Pope Francis to be there. While Francis stressed that this year we will grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy, he pondered: "How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy (cf. Saint Augustine, De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, 12, 24)! But that is the truth. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgment will always be in the light of his mercy." In passing through the Holy Door, he said, this should invite us to be part of this mystery of love. "Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things," he said. "May our passing through the Holy Door today commit us to making our own the mercy of the Good Samaritan," Pope Francis prayed.