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“The Embrace of Mercy,” a very special painting for Pope Francis.

A General Chapter is a jolting which launches a commitment to renewal. So does the one that has been going on in Rome since three weeks ago, making the number 55 in the history of the Augustinian Recollects. The forty brothers of the Chapter wanted to seal this commitment in the name of the Order in presence of the Pope. They made an appointment with him in a special audience, on the morning of October 20, accompanied by all other religious residing in Rome.

They came to the audience thrilled and also nervous, they listened excitedly to the words that Pope Francis addressed to them: to them and to the thousands of friars scattered throughout the world and to all the other members of the great Augustinian-Recollect family.

“The Embrace of Mercy”

The emotion that enwrapped them was one of gratitude, which they could not hide from the Pontiff. They wanted to express it concretely in a painting coming from the Philippines, painted expressly for this occasion by an Augustinian Recollect, the Bro. Jaazael Jeskosalem, also known as “Tagoy.” Jakosalem was already known to the Pope, who in the Manila Cathedral had blessed the icon made by him at the request of the Conference of Religious of the Philippines. Perhaps he would know him also for some of his drawing used as illustrations in the L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Holy See. Despite all that, he is seen greatly impressed on seeing the work that is so original as it is profound. Side by side with Bro. Tagoy, this oil painting of 50 x 75 cm. is signed also by his disciple named Melvin Lanas, a lay graduate of the University of San Jose-Recoletos, in Cebu. To the two must also be attributed the direct and expressive title: Embracing Mercy, which we may translate as “The Embrace of Mercy.”

Jakosalem himself explains what it represents, in a legend that goes with the painting: The painting shows the image of Pope Francis embracing the Child Jesus, who has the features of Alyan Kurdi, the Syrian boy of three years, who died drowning in the shores of Turkey while fleeing with his family. His picture caught the attention of the whole world and became the icon representative of the European Crisis of the Refugees.

“The Embrace of Mercy” symbolizes the “maternal” attitude of the Church towards the problem of the refugees, an attitude which the Pope personally lives upon assuming their defense. Confronting this global crisis, the Church embraces the many faces of injustice caused by the poverty, the abandon and the indifference of the wealthy nations.

The OAR History, in the hands of the Pope.

Not less symbolic a gift than the painting, was the History of the Augustinian Recollects, written by Fray Angel Martinez Cuesta. These are two thick volumes of high category research and of pleasant reading which bring together half a century of labor by the historian of the Order. Fray Martinez Cuesta himself put into the hands of Pope Francis the copy in precious binding with a matching box.