The 1983 image of Pope John Paul II offering face-to-face forgiveness to the assassin who attempted to kill him two years earlier was “a moment of reconciliation that captured the world’s attention,” said His Excellency William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore.
Delivering the 44th Pope John XXIII Lecture at the Columbus School of Law on April 1, the Archbishop’s remarks, “Mercy According to Blessed John Paul II,” were a profound meditation on the healing properties of forgiveness and compassion.
By word and deed, Pope John Paul II offered the world a refreshed vision of the meaning of mercy, said Archbishop Lori. It is a lesson that the world forgets at its peril.
“We should be working to form a society where compassion and mercy are transformative ideas. We must admit we have a long way to go,” he said.
Mercy, as understood and practiced by one of the most charismatic popes of the 20th century, did not mean that sin and crimes don’t matter, Archbishop Lori said. Rather, Pope John Paul II was keenly aware of their damaging effects on both society and the perpetrator.
Nonetheless, the late pope—who will be canonized as a saint by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on April 27—asked society not to deny criminals the chance to reform, and to understand that extending forgiveness and mercy did the miscreant the favor of forcing him or her to confront and acknowledge the sin.
“The most merciful thing you can say to a sinner is: you can do better, and here’s how,” said the Archbishop.
Archbishop Lori was introduced by The Hon. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., senior counsel, Government Advocacy and Public Policy Group, King and Spaulding; 60th Governor of Maryland (2003-2007) , and a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1995-2003).
A reception followed in the Keelty Atrium.