Pope Francis and the Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy
ProLifeCorner- By Larry Plachno
We are halfway through the Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy and yet many people are not fully aware of it and its implications. Fewer yet seem to have taken advantage of what Pope Francis and the Holy Year has offered us. This particular Holy Year is very unique in two areas that include its treatment of abortion and the ease of a pilgrimage to the Holy Door. Please give me a few minutes of your time so I can explain what the Holy Year is and how we can take advantage of it.
Pope Francis opened the Holy Door (Porta Sancta) at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on December 8, 2015 to inaugurate this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was also present as were numerous others. Pope Francis earlier said “On that day, the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope.”
There were two reasons given by Pope Francis for selecting this particular date. One reason is that this date marks the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Francis points out that this represents God’s action in choosing Mary as the mother of man’s Redeemer. A second reason is that it represents the 50th anniversary of the closing date of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this date alive.
For those who do not know, the Holy Door is the northernmost entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. If you have visited the Vatican you probably walked past it. After passing through security you walk to the front of St. Peters. This is the first door you pass and it is closed except during Holy Years.
Pope Boniface VIII began the tradition of a Jubilee Holy Year in 1300 and the ritual of passing over the threshold of the Holy Door to symbolize the passing into the presence of God. Unfortunately, the Holy Door was abused as a sanctuary in following years and was sealed with a wall, only to be opened during Jubilee years. While the time between Holy Years varied among following popes, a plenary indulgence was usually attached to passing through the Holy Door during a Holy Year.
For centuries, the Holy Door was sealed with a brick wall and only opened during a Holy Year. After closing the Holy Year on Christmas day of 1950, Pope Pius XII had the wooden doors installed by Pope Benedict XIV in 1748 replaced. The new 16-panel bronze doors, carved by Vico Consorti and casted by Ferdinando Marinelli Artistic Foundry in Florence, remain in place today. For the Jubilee year of 2000, Pope John Paul II simplified the ceremony for opening the Holy Door after debris had fallen on Pope Paul VI during a previous opening.
To fully appreciate this Jubilee Year of Mercy you need to understand that mercy is an integral part of the life and devotion of Pope Francis. It shows up repeatedly in his homilies, presentations and writing. It is noteworthy that at his first Mass after his election as the Bishop of Rome, at St. Anna in the Vatican on Sunday, March 17, 2013, his homily mentioned the adulteress whom the scribes and Pharisees were about to stone according to the Law of Moses. Everyone walked away after Jesus called upon those without sin to cast the first stone. He then showed her mercy with “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin any more.”
There are several books that contain the ideas and teaching of Pope Francis on the subject of mercy. One of the more interesting is The Church of Mercy that includes the thoughts of Pope Francis on mercy from homilies, presentations and writing. I personally like The Name of God is Mercy, the thoughts of Pope Francis on mercy as spoken to a Vatican reporter. This particular book provides the background to the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It includes Misericordiae Vultus, the document from Pope Francis that established the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It is highly recommended for anyone wishing to understand more about Pope Francis and the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Some of the thoughts of Pope Francis on mercy are mind-boggling. In The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis places God in the position of the father in the parable of the prodigal son. He is standing and continually watching each of us in the hope that we will return to him and ask for his mercy. Consider that while we go about our lives from day to day, God is continually watching each of us in the hope that we will come back to him and ask for His mercy.
In another place, Pope Francis points out that “Jesus Christ is the Face of His Father’s Mercy.” He points out that the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth was one of mercy, not of rules and demands. The rules and demands came later from church leaders, not from Christ. To begin with, Jesus Christ represents the mercy of God in sending His Son to atone for our sins. While Jesus Christ was a teacher, much of his actions revolved around mercy. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, raised the dead to life, forgave sinners and even turned water into wine for a wedding feast.
Minutes prior to his Ascension, Jesus Christ told his apostles of his mission of mercy in Luke 24:46-48. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that Repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witness of these things.”`
As mentioned earlier, this particular Holy Year differs from others in two major ways. One is its treatment of healing following abortion and the other is in making a Holy Door more accessible to everyone.
Early in his pontificate, Pope Francis said “I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds . . . I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.” As several people have commented, with the start of this Year of Mercy, the field hospital is now open.
During this Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has given all priests “the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.” This is quite a departure from the norm. Abortion is considered by Catholic canon law to be not only a sin but also a crime. Hence, it can bring with it sanctions that must be addressed by the local bishop. This is a considerable act of mercy in other countries. But, it may not be so obvious in the United States where bishops have for decades allowed priests to remove canonical penalties relating to abortion.
The second major difference in this Holy Year is the ability of everyone to pass through a Holy Door and receive a plenary indulgence. Pope Francis realizes that not everyone has the time or the resources to make a pilgrimage and fly to the Vatican and walk through the Holy Door at St. Peters. As a result, Pope Francis has allowed bishops to designate one or more Holy Doors in their diocese. For this Holy Year, there are Holy Doors all over the world and probably one not far from you.
Those who reside in the Diocese of Rockford, where this will be first posted, are particularly lucky. Bishop David Malloy has designated a Holy Door in each deanery as well as at the Poor Clares Monastery. In fact, the Rockford Diocese Web site not only lists where you can find these doors but also provides a Passport that you can print and stamp as you visit them.
If you do not live in the Rockford Diocese, you can find your nearest Holy Doors by checking out the list on the Web site of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops, Take a minute to look at the indulgences attached to the Holy Door and this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Pope Francis will close this Jubilee Year of Mercy on November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King. Will you have taken advantage of God’s mercy and what this Holy Year of Mercy has to offer? Now is the time to plan your local pilgrimage.
Editors Note: Larry Plachno is a successful businessman, publisher, author, and composer of an incalculable number of articles relating to family, life issues and associated problems and solutions. This barely scratches the surface of what Larry really is. His love of God, family and country is inspiring.
For years now Larry has shared his writings with us here at the ProLifeCorner and we are truly humbled by his generosity.
Larry is also an ardent blogger and is a prolific writer. You can follow his work at: www.unselfish.org