The plan for the Jubilee of Mercy

This Tuesday Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, announced the program for the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which will begin on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 2015.

He explained that “the very essence of the Extraordinary Jubilee” was mentioned by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium: “Such a community [the Church] has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved” (EG 24).

The jubilee year, as is often the case, will not be 365 days. It will conclude on Nov. 20, 2016, the feast of Christ the King.

Archbishop Fisichella said that he wanted “to avoid any misunderstanding” and that “it is important to reiterate that this Jubilee of Mercy is not and does not intend to be the Great Jubilee Year of 2000. Therefore, any comparisons lack validity, for every Holy Year possesses its own unique nature and aims. It is the pope’s desire that this jubilee be celebrated in Rome as well as in the local churches; this will give due focus to the life of individual churches and their needs, in such a way that the initiatives will not place an extra burden on local churches, but will blend into their calendars and usual activities very naturally.”

It is good that the Holy See is releasing this information now, since parishes in the United States often plan events far in advance.

The archbishop also said that “for the first time in the history of the jubilee tradition, there will be an opportunity for individual dioceses to open a Holy Door — The Door of Mercy — either in the cathedral or in a church of special meaning or a shrine of particular importance for pilgrimages.”

He also noted that unlike other jubilees, which were based on anniversaries of the crucifixion and Resurrection in 1933 and 1983, “This jubilee is based upon a theme. It will build upon the central content of the faith and intends to call the Church once again to its missionary priority of being a sign and witness in every aspect of its pastoral life.”

Something else new for this jubilee will be “the designation of Missionaries of Mercy. Pope Francis will give them their mandate on Ash Wednesday during the celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica. The missionaries must be patient priests, possessing an understanding of human frailty but ready to express the loving kindness of the Good Shepherd in their preaching and in the Sacrament of Confession.”

Archbishop Fisichella said that the motto of the jubilee will be “Merciful Like the Father” (Lk 6:36), and that it “serves as an invitation to follow the merciful example of the Father Who asks us not to judge or condemn but to forgive and to give love and forgiveness without measure” (cfr. Lk 6:37-38).

The Vatican’s calendar for the jubilee year could give us ideas for activities back here in Massachusetts (the words in quotes are from Archbishop Fisichella):

— Jan. 19-21, 2016 there will be an event at the Vatican “dedicated to all those involved with the organization of pilgrimages. It will symbolically emphasize that the Holy Year is a true pilgrimage and should be lived as such. We will ask pilgrims to make a journey on foot, preparing themselves to pass through the Holy Door in a Spirit of faith and devotion. It will be essential to prepare those working in the travel industry sector to go beyond the sphere of tourism, because they will be the first to provide assistance to pilgrims.” Maybe around the diocese we could think of walks we could make to our local holy door (like the Azorean Romeiros do during Holy Week in our cities).

— April 3, 2016 there will be an event “for those who in various ways are inspired by a charism of mercy (movements, associations, and religious institutes).” We can reflect on that locally and promote those aspects of our diocesan life that do this and bring attention to them on that date.

— Sept. 4, 2016 the Vatican will honor “charitable volunteers from all over the world. A volunteer is a dynamic witness of someone who lives the works of mercy in its various expressions and deserves to be celebrated in this special way.”

— Oct. 9, 2016 there will be a “special day to celebrate [Mary] as the Mother of Mercy.”

— “There will be a number of events dedicated particularly to youth, who upon receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation are called to profess their faith. For those between the ages of 13 and 16, for whom there are few opportunities for involvement within the ordinary pastoral life of the Church, we have reserved the date of April 24, 2016 as World Youth Day” on the local level, while the international celebration will be in Krakow from July 26-31, 2016. This can make us think about possibly going to Poland but also about planning for the vast majority of our youth who will not be able to go there.

— There will be a jubilee for deacons on May 29, 2016; for priests on June 3, 2016, the 160th anniversary of the feast of the Sacred Heart; and for catechists on Sept. 25, 2016.

— “On June 12, we will have a large gathering [at the Vatican] for the sick and disabled, as well as for those who care for them with such love and dedication.”

— “On Nov. 6, 2016 we will celebrate the jubilee for those in prison. This will be held not only in prisons but we have been studying the possibility of giving many of those in prison the opportunity to celebrate their own Holy Year with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica.”

— “There will be significant efforts to enact Pope Francis’s vision and witness of reaching out to those on the existential ‘peripheries’ of society, in order to give a direct testimony to the Church’s affinity and care for the poor, the suffering, the marginalized, and all those who need a sign of tenderness. These moments will have a symbolic meaning, but we will also ask bishops and priests to perform in their own dioceses similar symbolic gestures of communion with Pope Francis so that everyone may receive a concrete sign of the Church’s ministry of mercy and closeness. As a concrete sign of the pope’s charitable love, which is an essential component of this jubilee, effective measures will be taken to meet real needs in the world that will express mercy through tangible assistance.”

We are all in need of mercy because we are all sinners, but without being able to encounter the merciful Face of God in Christ, it is difficult to turn away from our sins. May this jubilee year help us to do so and then help us to be that Face of Christ for others.

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