This morning a letter from the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was released. It was addressed to the Polish Episcopal Conference to mark the 100th anniversary of John Paul II’s birth. It should be no surprise that it mentioned John Paul II’s love of the Divine Mercy devotion.
This devotion was popularized by St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish mystic and visionary whose diary relates visions where Jesus asks for a special feast of mercy to be held on the Sunday after Easter Sunday.
The July/August 1995 edition of the USCCB’s Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter considered a request to adopt the feast in the U.S. But they “felt that [it] was not the appropriate time to request such a celebration for the United States.”
On April 22, 2001, the day of the canonization of Faustina Kowalska, John Paul II added the line “or of Divine Mercy” to the title of the Second of Easter (Dominica II Paschae seu de divina misericordia). The following June he added attached indulgences to devotions in honour of Divine Mercy.
From today’s letter, it appears that John Paul II had initially wished to make more profound changes to the Missal, but that Cardinal Ratzinger, the then head of the CDF, blocked the proposal. John Paul II made a counter-proposal of just changing the title of the Sunday, to which Cardinal Ratzinger agreed. Here is the relevant section of the letter:
From the very beginning, John Paul II was deeply touched by the message of Faustina Kowalska, a nun from Kraków, who emphasized Divine Mercy as an essential center of the Christian faith. She had hoped for the establishment of such a feast day. After consultation, the Pope chose the Second Sunday of Easter. However, before the final decision was made, he asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to express its view on the appropriateness of this date. We responded negatively because such an ancient, traditional and meaningful date like the Sunday “in Albis” concluding the Octave of Easter should not be burdened with modern ideas. It was certainly not easy for the Holy Father to accept our reply. Yet, he did so with great humility and accepted our negative response a second time. Finally, he formulated a proposal that left the Second Sunday of Easter in its historical form but included Divine Mercy in its original message.
Today the Congregation for Divine Worship published a Decree where they add an optional memorial for Saint Faustina Kowalska, virgin, to the General Roman Calendar, that may be observed on October 5. The Latin of the texts for the Missal and the Liturgy of the Hours are at the end of the linked webpage.