WASHINGTON (CNS) — A former Swiss Guard who has penned a memoir on the leadership qualities of St. John Paul II said the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy officially declared by Pope Francis April 11 is “one of the many fruits of the teachings of John Paul.”

Andreas Widmer, a member of the Swiss Guard from 1986 to 1988, highlighted the importance of mercy to the late pope as part of a reflection during a Divine Mercy Sunday observance at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington.

“The significance of the Year of Mercy that’s been declared as a holy year is the implementation of what John Paul started with the devotion to Divine Mercy,” Widmer said April 12. “The whole idea of mercy is getting put into practice. This is the first time we have ever had a year of mercy. In a way, this is John Paul’s spirituality taking hold of the church.”


St. John Paul established the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000 to emphasize the connection between the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the mercy and forgiveness that flow from the paschal mystery to his disciples.

Like St. John Paul, who spent the early years of his pontificate preaching and writing on redemption and mercy, Pope Francis has focused on God’s “heart for those who are suffering” and the church’s unique role in providing such care and compassion.

The Year of Mercy will begin on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is Dec. 8, and conclude Nov. 20, 2016, which is the feast of Christ the King.

Widmer, a Swiss-born financier and entrepreneur based in Boston, is the author of “The Pope & The CEO: John Paul II’s Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard.” The 150-page book uses amusing anecdotes, serious business experience and questions for reflection to bring church teaching to life.

He has said that watching how the late pope lived his life showed him that business and faith can go together.

In his reflection at the Washington shrine, Widmer said St. John Paul “gave us a theology of work,” saying that through work we make “a gift of ourselves and become co-creators with God,” sanctifying ourselves and making something valuable for others that points us back to God.

Sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the St. John Paul II National Shrine is a place of prayer that also allows pilgrims to learn about the late pope’s life and mission. A permanent exhibit, “A Gift of Love: The Life of St. John Paul II,” has been in place since October.