The Church proclaims the truth of God’s mercy revealed in the crucified and risen Christ, and she professes it in various ways. Furthermore, she seeks to practice mercy towards people through people, and she sees in this an indispensable condition for solicitude for a better and “more human” world, today and tomorrow. However, at no time and in no historical period-especially at a moment as critical as our own-can the Church forget the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God amid the many forms of evil which weigh upon humanity and threaten it. Precisely this is the fundamental right and duty of the Church in Christ Jesus, her right and duty towards God and towards humanity.
This is good. Our proclamation of a merciful Jesus is not just a right. It is a duty imposed on us by baptism.
The more the human conscience succumbs to secularization, loses its sense of the very meaning of the word “mercy,” moves away from God and distances itself from the mystery of mercy, the more the Church has the right and the duty to appeal to the God of mercy “with loud cries.”(Cf. Heb. 5:7) These “loud cries” should be the mark of the Church of our times, cries uttered to God to implore His mercy, the certain manifestation of which she professes and proclaims as having already come in Jesus crucified and risen, that is, in the Paschal Mystery. It is this mystery which bears within itself the most complete revelation of mercy, that is, of that love which is more powerful than death, more powerful than sin and every evil, the love which lifts (us)up when (we) fall into the abyss and frees (us) from the greatest threats.
I’d say that secularization isn’t always the path away from mercy. People aspire to this deeper God-given quality just by how we are made. And we shouldn’t discount the far-reaching effect of Christ’s mercy in the world, even if those who might promote it seem not to be “with” us. That said, it is largely true that godless economics and politics indeed seduce people away from the instinct for mercy.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana