Speaking to the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Friday, Pope Francis spoke of the prime importance of all the works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual.

“We are in the Holy Year of Mercy. I hope that in this Jubilee all the members of the Church will renew their faith in Jesus Christ, the face of the Father's mercy, the way who united God and man,” the Pope said Jan. 29 in the Vatican's Clementine Hall. “Mercy, then, is the foundation of the life of the Church: the first truth of the Church, indeed, is Christ's love.”

“How then can we not desire that all Christian people — pastors and faithful — rediscover and return to the center, during the Jubilee, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy?”

“When, in the evening of life, it shall be asked of us what we did to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, equally shall it be asked of us if we have helped people to set their doubts aside, if we have committed ourselves to welcoming sinners, admonishing them or correcting them, if we have been able to combat ignorance, especially in relation to the Christian faith and the good life.”

The works of mercy, he said, are how Christians are to concretely carry out “the spirit of mercy,” adding that they are important, and not merely a devotion.

The Pope lamented how few Catholics know what the works of mercy are. He recounted that during one of his crowded audiences in the Paul VI Hall, he mentioned the works of mercy.

“I stopped and I asked the question: 'Which of you remember well what are the spiritual and corporal works of mercy? Those who remember, raise your hand.' Not more than 20 in a hall of 7,000. We must continue to teach the faithful these things, which are so important.”

Pope Francis then reflected on how mercy relates to the tasks undertaken by the CDF, saying, “In faith and in charity a cognitive and unifying relationship is established with the mystery of Love, which is God himself. The effective mercy of God became, in Jesus, affective mercy, as he made himself man for the salvation of men.”

“The task entrusted to your dicastery here finds its ultimate foundation and adequate justification. Christian faith, indeed, is not only knowledge to be committed to memory, but also truth to live in love. Therefore, along with the doctrine of the faith, it is also necessary to safeguard the integrity of customs, particularly in the most delicate areas of life. Adhering to faith in the person of Christ implies both an act of reason and a moral response to his gift. In this respect, I thank you for all your commitment and the responsibility you exercise in treating cases of abuse of minors by clerics.”

He added that “care for the integrity of faith and customs is a delicate task” and that this requires a “collegial commitment.” He commended those who work with the CDF for their exercise of collegiality, mentioning in particular a meeting between the congregation and the Doctrinal Commissions of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe.

That meeting, the Pope said, contributed to “stirring up in the faithful a new missionary impulse and greater openness to the transcendent dimension of life, without which Europe runs the risk of losing that humanist spirit which it nevertheless loves and defends.”

“I invite you to continue and to intensify your collaboration with these advisory bodies that assist episcopal conferences and individual bishops in their solicitude for sound doctrine, in a time of rapid change and growing complexity of problems.”

Pope Francis also indicated that an important contribution of the CDF is in studying “the complementarity between the hierarchical and charismatic gifts.”

“According to the logic of unity in legitimate difference — the logic which characterizes every authentic form of communion among the People of God — the hierarchical and charismatic gifts are called to collaborate for the good of the Church and of the world. The testimony of this complementarity is now more urgent than ever, and represents an eloquent expression of that ordered plurality which connotes every ecclesial community, as a reflection of the harmonious communion which lives in the heart of the Triune God.”

The relations between hierarchical and charismatic gifts springs from a “Trinitarian root,” he said, “in the bond that unites the divine Logos incarnate and the Holy Spirit, who is always a gift of the Father and the Son. It is precisely this root, if acknowledged and listened to humbly, that permits the Church to let herself be renewed.”

“Unity and plurality are the seal of a Church that, moved by the Spirit, knows how to walk with a sure and faithful step towards the purpose that the Risen Lord has indicated to them throughout history. Here we see clearly how the synodal dynamic, if correctly understood, is born from communion and leads towards an increasingly implemented, deepened and extended, in the service of the life and the mission of the People of God.”

Pope Francis concluded assuring them of his thoughts and prayers.