In April, Pope Francis announced in his papal bull Misericordiae Vultus that a Jubilee Year of Mercy will begin on Dec. 8, 2015. This is the first jubilee since 2000 and the first extraordinary jubilee since 1983, when Pope John Paul II announced the Holy Year of the Redemption.
Pope Francis, since the beginning of his papacy, has made mercy one of the pillars of his pontificate. In his first Angelus address, the Holy Father proclaimed mercy as shown by Christ. “Jesus’ attitude is striking: we do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation. ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.’ Ah! Brothers and Sisters, God’s face is the face of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience He has with each one of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, patience with us, He understands us, He waits for us, He does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to Him with a contrite heart.”
In the document, Pope Francis explained that mercy is not only an act of God, but something all of us should be practicing in our daily lives. “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”
It is no coincidence that the opening of the Year of Mercy falls on both the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of Vatican II. Said Pope Francis, “The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which for too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction.”
Events throughout the Jubilee Year of Mercy will reemphasize and promote both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that all Catholics are encourage to undertake.
Corporal Works of Mercy
Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Shelter the homeless
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
Bury the dead
Spiritual Works of Mercy
Counsel the doubtful
Comfort the sorrowful
Admonish the sinner
Instruct the ignorant
Bear wrongs patiently
Forgive all injuries
Pray for the living and the dead
The Vatican will be celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy in a variety of ways, including the opening of the Holy Doors of the four papal basilicas in Rome, establishing the Missionaries of Mercy who will be the Holy Father’s personal heralds of joy and forgiveness, granting various indulgences for those who sacrifice and seek forgiveness during the jubilee year, and encouraging all Catholics to both minister to those living on the outermost fringes of society and to embark on a pilgrimage during the Year of Mercy.
The Diocese of Camden also will formally celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy by opening Holy Doors at specific churches throughout the region, hosting events and educational opportunities that give instruction on mercy, and reinforcing the Holy Father’s various initiatives as they are announced.
In the weeks leading up to the Jubilee Year of Mercy and throughout the next year, keep an eye on the Catholic Star Herald, diocesan website (www.camdendiocese.org) and parish bulletins, which will announce upcoming events and activities focused on mercy.
The Jubilee year will close with the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2016.