Talk mercy, show mercy, live mercy. That was the challenge assigned to attendees of the New York Catholic Bible Summit by Archbishop José Octavio Ruiz Arenas, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
The Colombia native, who delivered his address in Spanish, was one of two keynote speakers at the seventh annual summit on June 18 at Cathedral High School, located at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan.
Father Donald Senior, C.P., president emeritus, chancellor and professor of New Testament Studies at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, was the English-language keynote speaker.
The daylong gathering, conducted in English and Spanish, drew nearly 700, according to organizers. The Church’s celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy was highlighted throughout the summit, beginning with the opening Mass offered by Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley.
Mercy, forgiveness, love and compassion are gifts from the Lord, Archbishop Arenas said in his keynote address, and are integral to maintain within the family, community and society. He emphasized Christ calls all to love one another as he loves us, and Pope Francis calls us to meditate on and consciously practice mercy.
“We are in a time filled with indifference—we need to put mercy in practice, as the pope says,” Archbishop Arenas continued. “God is love; this is a reality that is visible in Jesus. We are called to love.” He also underscored the pope’s call to help the poor.
In urging attendees to be merciful, particularly during the present troubling, uncertain times worldwide, Archbishop Arenas alluded to the June 12 massive fatal shootings in Orlando, Fla. And he noted the violence-filled times in his native Colombia in the 1980s and 1990s, much like now in Mexico.
Mercy was also a central theme of the homily delivered by Cardinal O’Malley in the opening liturgy. His city was also struck by horrific acts of violence three years ago at the Boston Marathon.
“Mercy is the face of God,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “It must be our face—it must be the face of the Church,” he added.
Cardinal O’Malley also spoke of the goodness of mercy, how it transforms people and how it changes lives.
The Bible summit was sponsored by the archdiocesan Catechetical Office and the American Bible Society. Leaders of both offered remarks of welcome.
“I hope you find this day enriching,” said Sister Joan Curtin, C.N.D., director of the Catechetical Office. Dr. Roy L. Peterson, president and CEO of the American Bible Society, said he was grateful for the summit’s “happy collaboration.”
The school gymnasium served as the summit’s main gathering site, including the opening Mass, which was originally scheduled to be celebrated at the adjoining St. John the Evangelist Church but was relocated due to the high number of registrants.
There were more than a dozen workshops from which attendees could choose, led by leading Scripture scholars—clergy, religious and laity—from the United States and abroad, including Spain, Uruguay and Mexico.
Among the workshops was “La Misericordia—Vocación de la Iglesia” (“Mercy—Vocation of the Church”) conducted in Spanish by Archbishop Arenas.
“The important thing,” the archbishop noted in his workshop, is “to evangelize in a way that people can find Jesus in themselves.”
A musical workshop, titled “Women at the Crossroads of Mercy,” was presented by ValLimar Jansen, a singer, composer and recording artist from California. Prior to the Midday Prayer, Ms. Jansen performed a one-woman skit based on the mercy-filled Bible story of Ruth and Naomi.
Among the summit-goers was 80-year-old Carmen Smith of St. Teresa parish in lower Manhattan, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. “This has all been very unifying,” Mrs. Smith said in Spanish. “God is love,” she added. “We all need mercy. We are all brothers and sisters who need one another.”