Jubilee helps spread forgiveness throughout the world

November 24, 2015

HOUSTON — On ​​​​May 15, Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy ​from ​Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception ​until Nov. 20, 2016, the Sunday dedicated to Christ the King.

According to the Vatican website, the jubilee is a year of reconciliation between adversaries, of conversion and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and consequently of solidarity, hope, justice, commitment to serve God with joy and in peace with our brothers and sisters. 

Themed “Merciful like the Father,” the Holy Year will begin with the opening of Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Dec. 8, which are sealed with bricks and cement as a symbolic reminder of the barrier of sin between human beings and God. On the following Sunday, Dec. 13, the Holy Door of the Basilica of St. John Lateran will be opened. Locally, the Holy Door at St. Mary Cathedral Basilica in Galveston will be opened at the 5 p.m. Mass on Dec. 12. The Holy Door at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown Houston will be opened on Dec. 13 at the 11 a.m. Mass. 

Other parishes will be designated as “pilgrim parishes” where the faithful of the Archdiocese will be able to experience the grace of this Jubilee Year. It will be the first time in history that there will be an opportunity for individual dioceses to open a holy door either in the Cathedral or in a church of special significance or a shrine of particular importance for pilgrimages.

The doors will be closed on the Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016 — the same day that the Holy Doors will be closed in the basilicas in Rome. The Holy Door at St. Peter’s will be closed on Nov. 20, 2016.

A Holy Door symbolizes a door of mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the mercy and forgiveness of God, as though we were walking into the realm of salvation. Not only does it symbolize God opening the doors for our salvation, but also symbolizes our openness to forgive and show mercy to others.

Some of the ways the faithful can show mercy towards others are the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. In response to the mercy the faithful receive from God, the works of mercy give shape to the Church’s desire to bring mercy to the world. Since the whole human person is the subject of God’s loving mercy, both body and soul, the works of mercy are oriented towards both the physical and spiritual necessities of the human person.

In an extraordinary gesture for the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has extended to priests worldwide the authority to absolve women for the sin of abortion.

“This jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one,” the pope wrote in a letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, the office organizing events for the holy year. Pope Francis said one of the most serious problems facing people today is a “widespread and insensitive mentality” toward the sacredness of human life.

“The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails,” while many other women believe that “they have no other option” but to have an abortion, the pope wrote in the letter, released Sept. 1 by the Vatican.

Events will be held locally throughout the jubilee year to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and experience mercy. For more information, visit the official website of the Year of Mercy at www.im.va. The site is available in seven languages: Italian, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and Polish.

For information on local events, visit http://www.archgh.org/yearofmercy/.

- CNS contributed to this report