“It is the Pope’s desire that this Jubilee be celebrated in Rome as well as in the local Churches,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization that is organizing this year-long event, said at a press briefing in the Vatican on May 5.
For the first time in the 600 year 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 at a shrine of particular importance for pilgrimages,” he stated.
The dynamic Vatican archbishop went onto explain that this Jubilee Year is “unique” in several ways compared to past Holy Years, and it is very different from the Great Jubilee Year in 2000. In other words, while it has a Roman dimension this Jubilee Year is to find its main expression and realization at the level of the local churches.
It is unique because “it is based upon a theme”: the call to mercy. It builds on the central content of the Gospel message and intends to call the church once again to its missionary priority: “to be a sign and witness (of mercy) in every aspect of its pastoral life.”
It is also unique because for the first time in a Jubilee “Missionaries of Mercy” will be designated for every diocese for the whole duration of the Holy Year, but with a special concentration during the period of Lent 2016.
He explained that these “Missionaries of Mercy” are to 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.” The local bishops are expected to identify and designate these special missionaries. Archbishop Fisichella’s office will provide guidance to the Bishops’ Conference to help them choose the right people. He believes that the thousands of “emeritus bishops” in the world today, because of their great pastoral experience, could well be suited for this role too. Pope Francis “will give them their mandate on Ash Wednesday”—February 10, 2016—during the celebration in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
The Archbishop presented the Calendar of Event in Rome during the Jubilee Year. Among those events, there will be a “Jubilee for workers and volunteers of Mercy on 4 September 2016 associated with the memory of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who remains an icon of the mercy of God for millions of people, of all faiths, across the globe. He would not say if this could be the opportune moment for Pope Francis to canonize her. “It is something we all hope for,” he said, in reference to her eventual canonization.
It is hoped to hold a special “Jubilee for Prisoners” in St. Peter’s Basilica on 6 November 2016, at which detainees will be present, the archbishop said. Nothing like this has ever happened before in the history of the Jubilee tradition, and the project is still under study.
The World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, (26-31 July 2016) blends in well with the Jubilee Year, he noted, because that gathering will take place around the theme: “Blessed are the Merciful for they will receive mercy.” In addition, he said, there will also be a “Jubilee for young boys and girls (ages 13-16),” on 24 April 2016.
There will be Jubilee events for other categories of the faithful too, including: Clergy, religious and lay faithful working in sanctuaries and shrines (Jan. 19-21, 2016); Those in Consecrated Life and the closing of the year dedicated to that (Feb. 2); The Roman Curia (Feb. 22); Devotees of the spirituality of Divine Mercy (April 3); Deacons (May 29); Priests (June 3); Those who are ill and persons with disabilities (June 12); Catechists (Sept. 25); A Marian Jubilee (Oct. 8-9); In memory of the faithful departed (Nov. 1).
Another unique aspect of this Holy Year, which Pope Francis highlighted in the Bull or formal document proclaiming the Jubilee Year, is his appeal to Judaism and Islam. Both religions emphasize that God is Merciful, as does Christianity. This can be a special opportunity “to foster dialogue” and it can also be “a way of overcoming difficulties in the public realm.”
The Vatican archbishop confirmed that the Jubilee Year could also have an ecumenical dimension, with the other Christian Churches and Communities, especially when the Holy Door is opened at the Basilica of Saint Paul on 25 Jan.2016.
In his presentation, Fisichella drew special attention to the fact that “there will 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,” he stated.
Furthermore, he said, “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.” He did not explain what this might involve.
Fisichella revealed that the Pope first talked to him about the Jubilee on 29 August 2014, and said he read it as 'an initiative coming from the Holy Spirit." He said the news has sparked great enthusiasm worldwide, and many bishops have written to Francis to express their gratitude. He noted too that the Jubilee Year takes place soon after the synod on the family, and he expected it would take into account those in irregular situations. Indeed, he said, "Mercy is central to the life of the Church, and if the doctrine of the Church is not permeated with mercy it is not the doctrine of the Church".
The Italian archbishop drew attention to the fact that there is a special site for the Jubilee, in English, Spanish and other languages, at: www.im.va.
He confirmed that the Jubilee of Mercy will begin when Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica on 8 December 2015—the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council—and will conclude when he closes that same door on 20 November 2016
Full text of Archbishop Fisichella’s presentation: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2015/05/05/0335/00703.html#ing