On March 13, 2015, Pope Francis was presiding over a penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica when he announced an extraordinary Jubilee dedicated to Divine Mercy. During his homily for the service, the pontiff drew a clear connection between the sacrament of reconciliation and our heavenly Father, who is “rich in mercy” and who “extends his mercy with abundance over those who turn to him with a sincere heart.”
I was standing in the heart of New York City – just a few feet away from nationally recognized network and cable television news anchors broadcasting on Fifth Avenue near St. Patrick Cathedral. That’s where I was the first time I saw Pope Francis during his Apostolic Journey to the United States.
It would be an understatement to describe Pope Francis’ visit to the United States (Sept. 22-27, 2015) as historic – but historic it certainly was. From his addresses at the White House and a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., to his speeches at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pope Francis covered a wide spectrum of subjects while still finding time to celebrate several Masses, canonize a saint, dine with the homeless, bless babies and those afflicted with debilitating conditions and meet with prisoners.
On Sept. 22-25, 2015, the city of Philadelphia will host the 8th World Meeting of Families. It will be the first time the event has ever been held in the United States, and millions of visitors from more than 150 nations are expected to attend.
On September 8, 2015, Pope Francis issued two new motu proprii amending canon law as it pertains to the procedure for a declaration of marriage nullity, often called the annulment process. The first, entitled Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (The Lord Jesus, The Gentle Judge), was directed at the Latin Code of Canon Law. The second, entitled Mitis et misericors Iesus (The Gentle and Merciful Jesus), amended the text governing those Eastern Churches in full communion with the Roman Church. Both documents were signed by the pope on August 15.
On June 18, 2015, Pope Francis’ long-awaited encyclical on ecology was released to the world. The encyclical, as has historically been the case, takes its name from the first few words of the encyclical: Laudato Si’ – literally “Praise be to you.” These words, in turn, come from the opening line of the Canticle of the Creatures by St. Francis of Assisi, who continues to greatly influence the pope.