News Detail
Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)
Holy Year of Mercy Begins Today

December 8, 2015 — Today Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the start of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a year for the church to focus on forgiveness and healing in a special way. Pope Francis announced the Holy Year of Mercy in March, hoping the church will "make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy."

The rite of the opening of the Holy Door was preceded by a Mass with 70,000 pilgrims packed in St. Peter's Square on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Year of Mercy will close November 20, 2016, the feast of Christ the King.

"How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy," the pope said at Mass.

“I had the privilege of concelebrating the Mass as I am attending preparatory meetings in Rome for the 36th General Congregation,” said Father Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. “While the security was at an all-time high, the spirit of the faithful was palpable as so many people endured the long security lines in the December cold with kindness and joy. Even the occasional cold drizzle of rain did not keep us from singing and praying throughout the Mass. There were profound moments of silence after the homily and after Communion; I was inspired by the fervor with which everyone prayed."


Father Timothy Kesicki, SJ, concelebrated the Mass that preceded the opening of the Holy Door.

Fr. Kesicki said there were applause and tears when Pope Francis opened the Holy Doors. "I was very moved to see Pope Emeritus Benedict walk through the Holy Door and embrace Pope Francis; the crowd in St. Peter’s Square was exuberant at the image. I had the opportunity to speak with families from Rome who wanted their photos taken in the square; they came as pilgrims begging the graces of the Jubilee Year of Mercy."

The Holy Year is an opportunity to encourage Christians to meet people's "real needs" with concrete assistance; to experience a "true pilgrimage" on foot; and to send "missionaries of mercy" throughout the world to forgive even the most serious of sins, said Archbishop Salvatore "Rino" Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is organizing the jubilee.


Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA) 

A jubilee year is a special year called by the church to receive blessing and pardon from God and forgiveness of sins. The purpose is to help people grow spiritually, strengthen their faith, and encourage works of service, while promoting unity within the Catholic Church and society in general.

The Catholic Church has called jubilee years every 25 or 50 years since the year 1300 and has also called special “extraordinary jubilee years” from time to time. The last jubilee year was held in 2000 and the last extraordinary jubilee year was held in 1983. During any jubilee year, a person can receive a plenary indulgence, which removes all “temporal punishment” due to sins that have already been forgiven.


Pope Francis prays after walking through the Holy Door to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy in St. Peter's Basilica. In the background at left is retired Pope Benedict XVI, who walked through the Holy Door after Pope Francis. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

The "Jubilee of Mercy" began with the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. The door is only opened during Holy Years and remains closed during all other years, representing the idea that, during the jubilee, the faithful are offered an "extraordinary pathway" towards salvation.

The Holy Year has an official prayer, logo and motto, "Merciful Like the Father." The logo, which was designed by Jesuit Father Marko I. Rupnik, features Jesus taking "upon his shoulders the lost soul, demonstrating that it is the love of Christ that brings to completion the mystery of his incarnation culminating in redemption," according to Archbishop Fisichella. The image also shows one of Jesus' eyes merged with the man's to show how "Christ sees with the eyes of Adam, and Adam with the eyes of Christ."

The pope will also designate "missionaries of mercy," priests who will be sent to the world's margins to show patience and compassion in their ministry. These specially selected priests will be granted "the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See," the pope said.

More than a dozen jubilee celebrations are scheduled for the Year of Mercy, such as a jubilee for consecrated men and women Feb. 2 to close the Year of Consecrated Life, as well as jubilees for prisoners, teenagers and the sick and disabled, among others.

Pope Francis has also asked the world's youth to rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, like feeding the hungry, and to practice one each month as they prepare for World Youth Day in July.

The pope explained why he sees such an urgent need to highlight God's mercy. "The world needs to discover that God is father, that there is mercy, that cruelty is not the path, that condemnation is not the path. Because the church herself sometimes follows a hard line … into the temptation of underlining only moral norms, but so many people remain on the outside.”


Pope Francis celebrates the opening Mass of the Holy Year of Mercy in St. Peter's Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

The real problem is people — not God — who give up on forgiveness, he said. But mercy changes everything, it "makes the world a little less cold and more just."

The Jubilee of Mercy has an official website in seven languages at www.im.va; a Twitter handle: @Jubilee_vaa Facebook page; and accounts on InstagramFlickr and Google+

View further resources for the Year of Mercy at Loyola Press

[Sources: Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New EvangelizationNational Catholic ReporterCatholic News ServiceDynamic CatholicCatholic News Service]





Recent News

October 18, 2018 — The Jesuits issued a statement of continued solidarity with the people of Nicaragua on the six-month anniversary of nonviolent protests.

October 17, 2018 — On Oct. 20, the Catholic Church will beatify Jesuit Father Tiburcio Arnaiz Muñoz in Málaga, Spain, where he is recognized as “apostle of the city.”

October 17, 2018 — On October 14, Pope Francis canonized a pope and a martyr: Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador.

October 15, 2018 — Prevain Devendran was selected to be a collaborator at the 2018 Synod of Bishops.

October 12, 2018 — On this day in 1963, U.S. Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek arrived in New York after 23 years in Russia in Siberian labor camps and Soviet prisons.

October 5, 2018 — Known as "The Magis," the guesthouse provides a place where Jesuits and other religious can recharge.

October 4, 2018 — Pope Francis asked bishops to be bold, honest, open-minded, charitable and, especially, prayerful as they begin the three-week meeting.

view all news

Search news

Publications
Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.

America 10/15/18

America 10/1/18

America 9/17/18



Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House
Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House is located on 80 acres of gently rolling meadows and wooded countryside just 35 miles northwest of Chicago.