What is a jubilee year?
practice of a jubilee year has ancient roots in the Jewish tradition and
evidence for it can be found in the Old Testament (for example, see Leviticus 25). The jubilee year was called every fifty years
and was a time for forgiveness. It stood
as a reminder of God's providence and mercy.
The dedication of a year for this emphasis provided the community with a
time to come back into right relationship with one another and with God. As the practice of the jubilee year was
adopted into the Catholic Church, these themes of mercy, forgiveness, and
How is this Jubilee
different from other Jubilee years?
The Jubilee of Mercy that Pope Francis has called,
from December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016, is an Extraordinary Jubilee. This designation as an "Extraordinary
Jubilee" sets it apart from the ordinary cycle of jubilees, or holy years,
which are called every 25 years in the Catholic Church. By calling for a holy year outside of the
normal cycle, a particular event or theme is emphasized. For example, Pope Francis called this
particular Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy to direct our attention and actions
"on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father's actions
in our lives . . . a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and
more effective" (MV, 3).
Why a Jubilee of Mercy now?
Pope Francis himself addressed
this question in his homily
for First Vespers for Divine
"Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy.
It is the favourable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all
those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the
closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness
and reconciliation. May the Mother of God open our eyes, so that we may comprehend the task
to which we have been called; and may she obtain for us the grace to experience
this Jubilee of Mercy as faithful and fruitful witnesses of Christ."
What is the Jubilee of Mercy?
In the Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae
vultus Pope Francis
declared that the Jubilee of Mercy will begin on December 8, 2015 (the Solemnity
of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and conclude on
November 20, 2016 (the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the
Universe). December 8, 2015 also marks
the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, a
Council that sought to bring the love of God to the modern world. Similarly, the Holy Father strongly desires
this Jubilee celebration of mercy to be lived out in the daily lives of the
faithful, and all who turn to God for compassionate love and mercy.
How do we live out the Jubilee of Mercy in our
Pope Francis emphasizes the need for the Church and all her members to live out
the loving mercy that God has for us.
Our response to God's loving mercy towards us is to act in that same way
to all those we meet. The Holy Father
reminds us that "Mercy is the very foundation of the Church's life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught
up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching
and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church's very credibility is seen in how
she shows merciful and compassionate love" (MV, 10). As members of the Body and Christ, our lives
should reflect this witness of mercy to those we meet on a daily basis.
are many resources available on the USCCB's website
for the Jubilee of Mercy, as well as the Vatican's
website, and diocesan websites. The
USCCB has monthly
reflections available to nourish our spiritual life and suggestions for how we
can put mercy in motion
in our own lives. We are called to be "merciful
like the Father" and reflect God's superabundant mercy in
our daily actions towards one another.
What are the major planned events of the Jubilee
There are many events planned
throughout the Jubilee of Mercy. The calendar of events organized by the Pontifical
Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization lists the scheduled events
that will take place at the Vatican. The
Jubilee year beings with the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica,
with the Holy Door of the Basilica of St. John Lateran opening the following Sunday. On this day, the Doors of Mercy will also be
opened around the world at local cathedrals and significant shrines. Throughout the year, there will also be
Jubilee celebrations for various groups who engage in the work of mercy and who
have been shown God's mercy.
Additionally, Pope Francis will participate in particular "Jubilee"
signs, which witness to the works of mercy.
Although there are many events planned for official celebrations at the
Vatican, the Holy Father encourages dioceses throughout the world to
participate in these celebrations recognizing God's mercy in their own local
What are the Holy Doors?
One of the central components
of the Jubilee of Mercy is that the Holy Doors throughout the world will be
opened during this Jubilee year. When
they are opened at the beginning of the year, "the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who
enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope"
(MV, 3). Since each diocese will have the opportunity
to open a Door of Mercy in their diocese, all members of the faithful will have
opportunity to make a pilgrimage to their local Holy Door during the
Jubilee. This pilgrimage is to be a
journey of walking closer with God and discovering "moment[s] of grace and
spiritual renewal" (MV, 3). These doors are symbols of God's mercy, open to welcome
everyone into the compassion of God's love that Christ proclaimed.
What are some key resources for the Jubilee of
Those wishing to take up Pope Francis' call to mercy
throughout this Jubilee of Mercy are encouraged to explore the resources not
only on the official Vatican website and the USCCB's website, but also their local diocesan website.
Numerous catechetical resources, events, and other activities have been
prepared for the Jubilee of Mercy. Since
the Holy Father would like this Jubilee of Mercy to be celebrated throughout
the whole world at the local and universal levels, dioceses and parishes are
encouraged to offer a variety of resources for their local parishioners in
addition to the events and resources that have been prepared by the Vatican. Many of these resources can be viewed and
downloaded for free and are ideal for use in small faith sharing groups or for