Writing in an extensive document convoking the year, which will begin Dec. 8, the pontiff states that the church’s "very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love."
"Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy," writes Francis in the document, released Saturday evening with the Latin title Misericordiae Vultus ("The Face of Mercy").
"The temptation ... to focus exclusively on justice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensable step," the pope continues.
"The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more," he states.
"It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters," writes the pontiff. "Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope."
Francis also notes that Dec. 8 will mark the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council and says: "