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Works of mercy (sometimes known as acts of mercy) are practices which Christians perform.
The practice is common in the Catholic Church as an act of both penance and charity. In addition, the Methodist church teaches that the works of mercy are a means of grace which lead to holiness and aid in sanctification.
The works of mercy have been traditionally divided into two categories, each with seven elements:
Pope John Paul II issued a papal encyclical "Dives in misericordia" on 30 November 1980 declaring that "Jesus Christ taught that man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but that he is also called "to practice mercy" towards others. Another notable devotion associated with the works of mercy is the Divine Mercy, which are reputed to be apparitions of Jesus Christ to Saint Faustina Kowalska.
Based on Jesus' doctrine of the sheep and the goats, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are a means of grace as good deeds and their omission is a reason for damnation. Because the Messianic Age will be a time of mercy, and because the church believes this age began at Jesus' coming and believes Jesus obeyed every mitzvah and fulfilled the Scriptures, Catholics perform the works of mercy.
In particular cases, a given individual will not be obligated or even competent to perform four of the spiritual works of mercy, namely: instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, admonishing sinners, and comforting the afflicted. These works may require a definitely superior level of authority or knowledge or an extraordinary amount of tact. The other works of mercy, however, are considered to be an obligation of all faithful to practise unconditionally. In an address on the 2016 World Day of Prayer for Creation, Pope Francis suggested "care for creation" as a new work of mercy. Corporally, it means simple daily gestures of peace and love; spiritually, it means contemplation of the world.
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