What is Jubilee/the Holy Year?
The practice of celebrating the Holy Year has ancient roots and can be traced back to the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament. The year-long celebration normally occurs every 25 years and feature special events, pilgrimages, and sacraments centered around the forgiveness of God, but the Pope also has the ability to proclaim extraordinary Holy Year if he so chooses. During each Jubilee, the Holy Doors are opened and those who pass through are said to be absolved of all previous sin.
The first Holy Year or Jubilee occurred in 1300 after many – who had been experienced war and immense suffering – flocked to the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul. Since then, there have been 27 Holy Years including 3 that were extraordinary. Extraordinary Jubilees (such as this year) are not previously planned and are called on by the Pope in order to emphasize a particular theme or event. For example, the last extraordinary Jubilee was held in 1983 under Pope John Paul II to mark the 1950th anniversary of Jesus’ death.
What is the Holy Year of Mercy?
Pope Francis declared that December 8th 2015 – November 20th 2016 would be the 27th Holy Year and that it would focus on the concept of mercy. According to interviews given by the Pope, this was done is response to “the world’s need for a revolution of tenderness”. In other words, the Pope aimed to highlight the suffering, marginalization, and poverty that has permeated society in recent years and connect the suffering with those dedicated to providing support. The Pope declared the official theme of the 2015 Jubilee would be “Merciful Like the Father”.
Why are the Holy Doors Significant?
Holy Doors are significant in the Catholic church as they are only opened during Jubilee years. Each Holy Door is an entrance to a major Papal basilica and they are normally sealed from the inside using brick or cement. As previously mentioned, during Holy Years people are able to walk through these doors and receive what is said to be absolute forgiveness for their past sins.
The most prominent Holy Door is located at St. Peter’s Basilica, however there are 3 other Holy Doors located in Papal basilicas in Rome – St. John Laternan’s, St. Mary Major’s, and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.
There are also many other doors that have been given this status all over the world. Check out this interactive map to see where they are located.
Jubilee 2016: The Holy Year of Mercy
Pope Francis’ Holy Year of Mercy will officially come to an end this Sunday when the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica are closed and resealed. The pontiff’s Jubilee of Mercy including a variety of events that aimed to highlight “works of mercy” such as feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, sheltering the homeless, etc. It is estimated that over 20 million people made the pilgrimage to Rome over the course of the year to walk through the Holy Doors and St. Peter’s.
It is also estimated that over 1 billion people participated in the Year of Mercy worldwide.
Here are some of the highlights:
Pope Francis unofficially began this year’s Jubilee by opening the Holy Doors at a cathedral in the Central Republic of Africa
The Holy Year of Mercy officially commenced on the morning of December 8th, 2015 when the Pope opened the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Fiat Lux: Illuminating Our Common Home also took place on December 8th and featured images of our “shared natural world” being projected onto St. Peter’s. The aim of the event was to inspire change regarding the current climate crisis across generations, cultures, languages, etc.
The Holy Doors at St. John Lateran’s were opened on December 13th, 2015. The doors at St. Mary Major followed on the 1st of January, as well as the doors at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls on January 26th, 2017.
Over the course of the Holy Year of Mercy, the Pope including various events dedicated to prisoners, the homeless, and disabled persons. For example, closing events have including Pope Francis inviting prisoners and homeless persons into St. Peter’s Basilica for Holy Mass.
What was your favourite event of Jubilee 2016? Let us know in the comments!
The Holy Doors may be closing tomorrow morning, however you can still experience St. Peter’s Basilica with Enjoy Rome. Click here to book!