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Gerard O’ConnellMay 09, 2024
Pope Francis prays before formally delivering "Spes Non Confundit," ("Hope Does Not Disappoint"), his document proclaiming the Holy Year 2025, during a ceremony in front of the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 9, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Pope Francis today promulgated the decree, known as a “Bull of Indiction,” for the Jubilee Year 2025, which he will open in St. Peter’s Basilica on Dec. 24, 2024, and close on Jan. 6, 2026.

Hope is the central message of this 8,400 words decree, known by its Latin title “Spes non Confundit” (“Hope does not disappoint”), a copy of which Pope Francis gave to prelates representing the four major Roman basilicas and the churches on the different continents at a solemn ceremony in front of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica this evening, May 9, the feast of the Ascension.

In the bull, which in some parts reads like a social encyclical, Pope Francis told believers that in this Jubilee Year “we are called to be tangible signs of hope for those of our brothers and sisters who experience hardship of any kind.” He emphasized the need for diplomacy to resolve the wars and armed conflicts around the world, called on leaders to address the needs of “the billions” of poor people in the world who lack food and water, and appealed—as Pope John Paul II did in Jubilee Year 2000—for the cancellation of the debts of poor countries and amnesty or pardon for prisoners.

Following a tradition that has biblical origins, the first Jubilee in the Catholic Church was proclaimed in the year 1300 by Pope Boniface VIII, and since then, a Jubilee Year has been held every 25 years. This is Francis’ second jubilee, as he decreed an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy and, breaking with precedent, opened it in the war-torn Central African Republic in November 2015.

“Everyone knows what it is to hope. In the heart of each person, hope dwells as the desire and expectation of good things to come,” the pope said in the decree that does not shy away from the dramatic situation humanity is experiencing.

“Christian hope does not deceive or disappoint because it is grounded in the certainty that nothing and no one may ever separate us from God’s love,” he emphasized, drawing inspiration from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

He prayed that this Jubilee Year may provide an opportunity “to be renewed in hope” not only for the more than 30 million pilgrims who are expected to travel to Rome for this Jubilee but for the countless millions who, unable to do so, will celebrate it in their local churches or through pilgrimages to Marian shrines across the world. He presented it also as an opportunity for conversion, reconciliation with God through the sacrament of penance, obtaining indulgences through God’s mercy, renewing our faith and love through hope, and proclaiming God’s love to the many people suffering in today’s world.

He reminded believers that “the Christian life is a journey, calling for moments of greater intensity to encourage and sustain hope as the constant companion that guides our steps toward the goal of our encounter with the Lord Jesus” (italics in the original).

“In addition to finding hope in God’s grace” in this Jubilee Year, he said, “[w]e are also called to discover hope in the signs of the times that the Lord gives us.” He said, “We need to recognize the immense goodness present in our world, lest we be tempted to think ourselves overwhelmed by evil and violence.”

Francis identified “the first sign of hope” in “the desire for peace in our world, which once more finds itself immersed in the tragedy of war.” He asked, “How is it possible… [that] the desperate plea for help is not motivating world leaders to resolve the numerous regional conflicts in view of their possible consequences at the global level?” He said that “the need for peace challenges us all and demands that concrete steps be taken” and called for diplomacy to “be tireless in its commitment to seek, with courage and creativity, every opportunity to undertake negotiations aimed at a lasting peace.”

A second sign of hope should “entail having enthusiasm for life and a readiness to share it,” he said. “Sadly this is lacking,” he noted, pointing to the declining birthrate in many countries. He called for “responsible legislation” by states to help reverse this situation and urged the Christian community to “be at the forefront in pointing out the need for a social covenant to support and foster hope” so we may have “a future filled with the laughter of babies and children.”

During the Jubilee Year, Pope Francis said, “we are called to be tangible signs of hope for those of our brothers and sisters who experience hardship of any kind.” He proposed many concrete ways to do this.

He called on believers to care for prisoners, and appealed to governments to restore hope to prisoners by “forms of amnesty or pardon.” He said believers and their pastors “should be demanding dignified conditions for those in prison” and the abolition of the death penalty.

He announced that he wishes “to open a Holy Door” in a prison, just as he will open the Holy Doors in the four major Roman basilicas.

He appealed to believers to care for “the sick, at home or in hospital” through “closeness and affection” and to care for the elderly who so “often feel lonely and abandoned.”

He said it was particularly important to give signs of hope to young people in today’s world. “It is sad to see young people who are without hope” because they lack employment, job security or realistic prospects for the future “and grow discouraged,” take to drugs or seek other escape routes. “The Jubilee Year should inspire the church to make greater efforts to “draw close to them,” he said.

He called on believers in this Jubilee Year to offer “signs of hope” to migrants who leave their homelands in search of a better life for themselves and their families. He insisted that “exiles, displaced persons and refugees…ought to be guaranteed security and access to employment and education, and the means to find their place in a new social context”

Then in a powerful plea, Francis said, “I ask with all my heart that hope be granted to the billions of the poor, who often lack the essentials of life.”

“It is scandalous,” he said, “that in a world possessed of immense resources, destined largely to producing weapons, the poor continue to be the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people.”

Pope Francis said the Jubilee Year reminds us that “the goods of the earth are not destined for a privileged few, but for everyone” and said that “the rich must be generous and not avert their eyes from the faces of their brothers and sisters in need.”

He appealed to governments to divert money away from military spending toward a global fund dedicated to ending hunger and aiding the development of poor countries “so that their citizens will not resort to violent or illusory situations, or have to leave their countries in order to seek a more dignified life.”

He called on more affluent nations “to forgive the debts of countries that will never be able to repay them. More than a question of generosity, this is a matter of justice.” This injustice is compounded by the “ecological debt” that exists between the Global North and South “connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time.”

The Argentine pope recalled that the Jubilee Year coincides with the 1,700th anniversary of the first great ecumenical council in Nicaea “that sought to preserve the Church’s unity, which was seriously threatened by the denial of the full divinity of Jesus Christ and hence his consubstantiality with the Father” but “after various debates, by the grace of the Spirit they unanimously approved the Creed that we still recite each Sunday at the celebration of the Eucharist.”

That council “was a milestone in the Church’s history” and “represents a summons to all Churches and Ecclesial Communities to persevere on the path to visible unity,” he said. He recalled that the date of Easter was discussed at Nicea and lamented that the “different approaches” of the Eastern and Western churches prevent all Christians from celebrating “the fundamental event of our faith on the same day.” But, he said, “[p]rovidentially a common celebration [of Easter] will take place in the year 2025. May this serve as an appeal to all Christians, East and West, to take a decisive step forward toward unity around a common date for Easter.”

From the beginning of his pontificate, the Jesuit pope has encouraged people to seek God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation. He did so again in the bull. He recalled that he commissioned “Missionaries of Mercy” to reach out to people during the Year of Mercy and said he was doing the same again for this Jubilee. He urged bishops to do likewise in their diocese. Moreover, he added that the Jubilee Year indulgences would be made available to the faithful as happened in the past.

Francis concluded by saying that “the death and resurrection of Jesus is the heart of our faith and the basis of our hope” and “by virtue of the hope in which we were saved, we can view the passage of time with the certainty that the history of humanity and our own individual history are not doomed to a dead end or a dark abyss, but directed to an encounter with the Lord of Glory.”

After Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, the regent of the papal household, had read extracts from the papal bull, cardinals, bishops and other clergy processed into the basilica followed by Pope Francis for the signing of vespers.

In his homily, Francis again focused on the theme of hope and said:

Dear brothers and sisters, in this Year of Prayer, as we prepare for the celebration of the Jubilee, let us lift up our hearts to Christ, and become singers of hope in a world marked by too much despair. By our actions, our words, the decisions we make each day, our patient efforts to sow seeds of beauty and kindness wherever we find ourselves, we want to sing of hope, so that its melody can touch the heartstrings of humanity and reawaken in every heart the joy and the courage to embrace life to the full.

In accordance with tradition, the ceremony took place on the feast of the Ascension of the Risen Jesus into heaven.

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