- - Friday, February 12, 2016

This week, Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, a period of spiritual reflection, fasting and penitence that many Christians undertake each year to prepare for the celebration of Easter.

The Catholic Church is calling on the faithful to prepare for Easter this year in an extra special way, asking its members to think and act upon the mercy of God.

Last year, Pope Francis declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, beginning on December 8, 2015 and ending on November 20, 2016.

In introducing this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis asked that “the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy.” Pope Francis urges us to accept the mercy that God extends to us and to show that mercy to others.

And what mercy God has shown us. As Cardinal Wuerl of Washington has written, “On the cross, Jesus opened his arms in loving mercy and forgiveness, destroying death and obtaining for us new life.”

St. Thomas Aquinas said the merciful person is one who is “affected with sorrow at the misery of another as though it were his own,” such that he “endeavors to dispel the misery of the other as if it were his.”

Saint John Paul II wrote beautifully of the mercy of God when he said, “Man attains to the merciful love of God, His mercy, to the extent that he himself is interiorly transformed in the spirit of that love towards his neighbor.”

In our new documentary film, “Divine Mercy: The Canonization of John Paul II,” we reflect upon the canonization and legacy of Saint John Paul II. In doing so, we highlight the emphasis on divine mercy that was at the center of John Paul II’s pontificate.

“Divine Mercy Sunday” is a relatively new feast day in the Catholic Church, and it underscores just how much the church is focused on emphasizing the teaching of God’s mercy. Divine Mercy Sunday occurs on the Sunday after Easter. It was inaugurated in 2000 by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the canonization of a Polish nun, Sister Mary Faustina Kowalska, who for a period of seven years in the 1930s had visions from Jesus Christ about the mercy of God. She wrote them down in a diary, which was published after her death. One of these messages was for the church to create a feast day dedicated to divine mercy on the first Sunday after Easter.

Pope John Paul II died in April 2005, on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday. He was beatified in 2011 on Divine Mercy Sunday and was canonized in 2014 on Divine Mercy Sunday.

We were privileged to witness the canonization of Saint John Paul II on April 27, 2014, in Rome. During the canonization Mass, Pope Francis declared Pope John Paul II a saint before almost 1 million people in St. Peter’s Square.

“Divine Mercy: The Canonization of John Paul II” captures this moment and celebrates one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. This film is a vivid account of the holy and heroic life of St. John Paul II who changed the course of history. This Lent, as Pope Francis calls upon us to contemplate God’s mercy, we hope all people will be brought to a greater awareness and understanding of God’s merciful love.

Newt and Callista Gingrich are hosts and co-producers, along with Citizens United and Peace River Company, of the newly released film documentary film “Divine Mercy: The Canonization of Pope John Paul II.”

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