Pope Francis dedicated the early part of his papacy to the virtue of mercy, even declaring a jubilee year of mercy which began in 2015 and ended a year ago in December 2017. In Pope Francis’s letter calling for a Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis wrote a great deal about the meaning of mercy. He says, “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.” Furthermore, Pope Francis wrote on how the virtue of mercy in Christianity relates and is important in both Judaism and Islam.
Pope Francis writes, “There is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church. It relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s most important attributes. Israel was the first to receive this revelation which continues in history as the source of an inexhaustible richness meant to be shared with all mankind. As we have seen, the pages of the Old Testament are steeped in mercy, because they narrate the works that the Lord performed in favour of his people at the most trying moments of their history. Among the privileged names that Islam attributes to the Creator are “Merciful and Kind”. This invocation is often on the lips of faithful Muslims who feel themselves accompanied and sustained by mercy in their daily weakness. They too believe that no one can place a limit on divine mercy because its doors are always open.”
Mercy is very important in Islam and it is spoken of in the Qur’an many times. Raḥmān is an Arabic term that is commonly translated as "compassionate" or "beneficent" which is interchangeable for the word mercy. The word mercy is mentioned throughout the Qur’an in different sections and referencing not only moral codes of Islam, but mercy is sometimes used as an introduction for God in the beginning of a text. For example, every Surra apart from one begins with, “in the name of God, most compassionate.” There are many examples of God’s mercy in the Qur’an, for example, if a Muslim cannot do a task which was commanded of him/her, God will show him/her mercy and accept from this person what they can do. In the Qur’an it says, “There is not upon the weak or upon the ill or upon those who do not find anything to spend any discomfort when they are sincere to Allah and His Messenger. There is not upon the doers of good any cause [for blame]. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful (At-Tawbah 9:91).” Another example is when a Muslim commits a specific sin unintentionally, God shows him/her mercy. In the Qur’an it says, “But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.(Al-Baqarah 2:173).”
Mercy is also prevalent in Judaism. The word hesed or rachamim are the two Hebrew words associated with mercy in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Torah. In Judaism there are prayers called the Selichot prayers. “The core of the Selichot prayers is the 13 Attributes of Mercy, the very words that God taught Moses for the people to use whenever they needed to beg for divine compassion.”
“The 13 Attributes of Mercy are found after the incident of the Golden Calf, when God threatened to destroy the people of Israel rather than forgive them (Exod. 32:10). According to the Talmud, Moses felt that Israel’s sin was so serious that there was no possibility of intercession on their behalf (Rosh Hashanah 17b).”
“At this point, God appeared to Moses and taught him the 13 Attributes, saying: “Whenever Israel sins, let them recite this [the Thirteen Attributes] in its proper order and I will forgive them.” Thus this appeal to God’s mercy reassures us that repentance is always possible and that God always awaits our return.”
Mercy is a common theme in all three Abrahamic religions and I think today, especially with the current circumstances facing Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Middle East and across the globe, mercy should be the virtue that binds us together and is something that we all strive to bestow upon one another in our daily lives.