Pope Francis opened the Jubilee of Mercy, an Extraordinary Holy Year, Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Holy Year will close Nov. 20, 2016, with the Solemnity of Christ the King.
The Jubilee was officially inaugurated by the by the Pope when he opened the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. Pilgrims who pass through the door – which is only opened during Jubilee years, ordinarily every 25 years or when a Pope calls for an extraordinary Jubilee – can receive a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions.
Francis presided over the rite of the Holy Door’s opening before passing through himself. He was followed by retired pontiff Benedict XVI, who attended the rite in one of his rare public appearances.
The opening of the door is meant to symbolically illustrate the idea that the Church’s faithful are offered an “extraordinary path” toward salvation during the time of jubilee.
In his remarks at the general audience, Francis noted that in an age of great change, the Church is called to make God’s presence and closeness known.
The Jubilee, he said, “is an ideal time for all of us, because in contemplating Divine Mercy, which overcomes every human limit and sheds light on the darkness of sin, we can become more convincing and effective witnesses.”
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Through the Holy Year, the Church is turning our gaze to the heart of the Gospel, Jesus Christ who is “mercy made flesh,” the Pope said. To celebrate a Jubilee dedicated to mercy, he added, means putting “the specific aspects of the Christian faith” back at the center of our personal and communitarian life.
“This Holy Year is offered to us in order to experience in our lives the sweet and gentle touch of the forgiveness of God, his presence beside us and his closeness above all in moments of greatest need,” he said.
Pope Francis then noted that mercy is in fact what “pleases God most,” and is what is most needed by the world today, when there is “little forgiveness” in society, institutions, work and even the family.