Rome is braced for a peaceful and joyous invasion of pilgrims from the 8th of December 2015 to November 20, 2016. Pope Francis announced the celebration of an ‘extraordinary Holy Year’. This ‘Jubilee of Mercy’ will commence with the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 2015, and will conclude on November 20, 2016. At the start of the new year, Francis Pope had stated.
“This is the time of mercy. It is important that the lay faithful live it and bring it into different social environments. Go forth!”
What is Jubilee?
In Judaism and Christianity, the concept of the Jubilee is a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon. In the Biblical Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fiftieth year, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.
Pope Boniface VIII in 1300 declared the first Christian jubilee, beginning with the opening of the Holy Door, an entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica, usually blocked, through which pilgrims can enter.
Catholic practice has been to mark the jubilee every 25 years, and many expected the next jubilee to commence in 2025. But a pope can proclaim an “extraordinary” jubilee when he deems necessary.
During a jubilee, Catholics can obtain special indulgences, or remission for their sins, if they fulfill certain conditions and do good works or make pilgrimages.
For example, Francis told priests to forgive repentant women who have had an abortion during the jubilee. While this does not mark a change in church teaching, which still views abortion as a grave sin, it makes it possible for women who have gone through an abortion to participate in church life. In outlining his views on the jubilee, Francis wrote:
“The time has come for the church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters.”
Ceremonial of the Jubilee
The most distinctive feature in the ceremonial of the Jubilee is the unwalling and the final walling up of the “holy door” in each of the four great basilicas which the pilgrims are required to visit.
Traditionally, the Pope himself opens and closes the doors of St. Peter’s Basilica personally, and designates a cardinal to open those of St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul outside the Walls. In the Great Jubilee, the Pope chose to open all the doors personally, while designating cardinals to close all the doors except that of St. Peter’s.
Catholic parishes all over the world share a similar rite dedicating a door for the purposes of the Jubilee Year in order to accommodate its parishioners who do not intend to visit Rome for the occasion. Local parishes’ doors include the same indulgence given to the Basilica doors.
…and some technical information about the visiting
Tickets for individuals and groups are available through the “Pilgrim Registration”, in order to avoid queueing for events for the Jubilee. Once registered the user will receive an email with a link directing them to a page to book tickets and passes.
Pilgrims wishing to access the Holy Door at St Peter’s can choose the desired day and preference for either morning (07.00-13.00) or afternoon (13.30-17.00). Visitors will be channelled through a reserved pedestrian route from Castel S. Angelo, passing along Via della Conciliazione up to Piazza S. Pietro.
Access to the major Jubilee events is divided into eight categories: pilgrimage leaders (or individual); Jubilee for the Spirituality of Divine Mercy; deacons; priests; sick and disabled; Jubilee workers and volunteers; catechists; and Marian Jubilee.
Visiting the Holy Doors at Rome’s other papal basilicas – S. Giovanni in Laterano, S. Maria Maggiore, and S. Paolo Fuori le Mura – is not subject to registration.
For full list of Vatican events and other details see Jubilee website.