Introduction: Seeing the great need for mercy and healing in the world, Pope Francis has called for the Year of Mercy. This is special period, also known as a Holy Year or Jubilee Year, for the Catholic Church. It is a time for the Church across the world to take a year to focus on forgiveness and healing in a special way. The Year of Mercy is an invitation to show love, kindness, and unbounded generosity.
Pope Francis is offering us all the opportunity to encounter the incredible mercy of God. Encountering mercy means encountering God. It can transform our life, our relationships, our work, and our ability to embrace and experience all of life. Pope Francis has asked us all as individuals and as a Church “to be a witness of mercy” by reflecting on and practising the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Beginning on 8 December 8 2015, the Holy Year of Mercy will focus on studying and reflecting on mercy, receiving mercy, and being merciful towards others.
Pope Francis explains the Jubilee Year of Mercy in a short clip (2 minutes 35 seconds) here
A one minute news report on the announcement of the Year of Mercy can be found here
What is a Jubilee Year?
A Jubilee Year is a special year called by the Church to receive blessings and pardon from God and the remission of sins. The Church has called Jubilee years every 25 or 50 years since the year 1300 and has also called special Jubilee Years from time to time. This year Pope Francis is symbolically calling upon the entire Church to take up his papacy’s central message of compassion and pardon.
Pope Francis is convinced that the whole Church “has much need to receive mercy because we are sinners” and that “we will find in this Jubilee Year the joy to rediscover and render fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time.”
“The mercy of Jesus is kind and understanding. Let his gentle healing put your worries to rest” (Bishop Séamus)
Pope Francis is asking us not only to look for mercy but also to think about how we ourselves can show mercy. “This sacred time is for mending bridges, putting things right and welcoming those who are estranged. It is a time for healing in families and between friends; a time for gentle mercy and acceptance.” (Bishop Séamus)
The Holy Door of Mercy
Holy Years have been part of our Catholic history since Boniface VIII declared the first such Jubilee in 1300. Since then they have usually been proclaimed every twenty-five years. There have been a few exceptions such as 1983 which celebrated the 1,950th anniversary of the death and resurrection of our Lord. Pope Francis, in calling a Holy Year of Mercy, is declaring this year a Jubilee, rather than just a year dedicated to a particular theme. A major aspect of the Holy Year has been to make a pilgrimage to Rome seeking God’s mercy and renewing our commitment to our baptismal life. The Holy Year begins when the Pope formally opens the Holy Door in St Peter’s Basilica which is only open during such a year. Pilgrims enter the basilica through that door as a sign of faith, of our entering into the presence of God.
This time Pope Francis has also called for a Holy Door, ‘a Door of Mercy’, to be opened in all cathedrals for the Jubilee Year. He also suggests that ‘a similar door may be opened at any shrine frequented by large groups of pilgrims, since visits to these holy sites are so often grace-filled moments, as people discover a path to conversion.’ In this way, the Pope invites the local church and Rome to be in communion in this celebration. Parishes and communities should plan ways of making a pilgrimage to the cathedral or other holy site where a Holy door has been opened.
Pope Francis is asking for ‘24 hours for the Lord’ in every diocese on the Friday and Saturday preceding the Fourth week of Lent. During this time, we will especially have the opportunity to encounter the merciful Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Throughout the Year of Mercy there will be Liturgies, prayer resources, celebrations and events throughout our Diocese. These will include celebrations for specific groups and individuals, parishioners, children and young people, religious, priests, deacons, married couples, those experiencing grief, loss and separation, prisoners and catechists. Special outreach will be extended to the vulnerable, marginalised and those who may feel excluded.
Pope Francis will close the Holy Year Door of Mercy on the Feast of Christ the King – 20 November 2016 bringing the Jubilee Year to an end.