JUBILEE YEAR OF MERCY HAS DRAWN NEARLY 20 MILLION TO ROME

JUBILEE YEAR OF MERCY HAS DRAWN NEARLY 20 MILLION TO ROME

The Holy See Press Office Thursday morning held a press conference featuring Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, who presented the final major celebrations associated with the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy at the Vatican: the Jubilee for Prisoners on November 5 and 6; and the Jubilee for the Socially Excluded from November 11 to 13.

Each particular Jubilee will culminate with Mass.

The Jubilee for Prisoners will involve a contingent of persons currently serving penal sentences in Spain, along with persons of several different nationalities currently incarcerated in Italy, as well as hundreds of people  either released on parole or who have served their sentences and are working to rejoin society. Over 1,000 people currently serving time or who have served time in prison are expected to take part in the Jubilee in Rome, according to official estimates from the Council for New Evangelization.

On Saturday, participants will have the opportunity to confess in the Jubilee churches and make the pilgrimage to the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Mass with the Holy Father is scheduled to begin at 10 AM on Sunday, following an hour-long series of testimonies given by four people whose lives have been changed through the experience of crime and punishment: a prisoner who has experienced conversion, who will speak with the victim with whom he is reconciled; the brother of a victim of a deadly crime who has become the instrument of mercy and forgiveness; a minor who is serving his sentence; and an agent of the Penitentiary Police, who has daily contact with inmates.

“We will listen to their life experience,” explained Archbishop Fisichella, “and we will understand that the theme of mercy is not a theoretical word, but a genuine daily action that often represents a real existential challenge.”

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The following weekend, starting Friday. November 11 and concluding Sunday the 13th, the Church will mark the Jubilee of Socially Excluded Persons. This includes anyone and everyone who, for reasons ranging from economic precariousness to disease, loneliness or lack of family ties, have difficulties and often remain at the margins of society, without a home or a place to live.

“People,” said Archbishop Fisichella, “we meet every day, people our eyes do not want to see, and from whom we look away.”

Approximately 6,000 participants from different countries are expected: France, Germany, Portugal, England, Spain, Poland, Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia and Switzerland. The organization started by the French organization Lazare, founded by Etienne Villemain.

Participants will have an intense Jubilee program: Friday at 11:30 AM in the Paul VI Hall, they are scheduled to meet Pope Francis, who will listen to some of their testimonies and at the end will meet with them. There will be opportunities to hear testimony on Saturday at 10 AM in the following churches: San Salvatore in Lauro for the English language; Santa Monica for Dutch, St. Louis of France for Portuguese; XII Apostles for French; St. John the Baptist of the Florentines for Polish; Santa Maria in Vallicella (Chiesa Nuova) for German; Santa Maria sopra Minerva for Italian; Sant’Andrea della Valle for Spanish and Santa Maria Maddalena in the Campus Martius for Slovak.

Saturday afternoon at 5, there will be a Vigil of Mercy in the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, preceded by a brief pilgrimage to the Basilica’s Holy Door, starting from the front gardens.

On Sunday, the Holy Father will preside at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at 10 AM, following which he will lead all the faithful in the recitation of the Angelus prayer.

Sunday, November 13 will mark the closing of the Doors of Mercy in all churches and shrines throughout the world, including those of the three papal basilicas: St. Paul’s Outside the Walls at 5 PM; St. John Lateran at 5:30 PM and Saint Mary Major 6 PM.

“We are confident,” concluded Archbishop Fisichella, “that these two Jubilee events will be experienced with the same intensity and experience of prayer with which we have seen the entire Jubilee celebrated.” (JFL: end of Year of Faith)

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That enthusiasm was on display October 22nd when an extraordinary crowd of 93,000 people participated in the extraordinary Jubilee audience held once each month on a Saturday during the Jubilee Year. The archbishop said that was the highest number yet for a Jubilee audience.

The Jubilee of Mercy official website – http://www.im.va – estimates that 19,797,652 people have participated in the Jubilee in Rome through the end of October. (Vatican Radio)

 

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POPE TO WASH FEET OF REFUGEES ON HOLY THURSDAY

POPE TO WASH FEET OF REFUGEES ON HOLY THURSDAY

Vatican City, March 22, 2016 – Welcoming refugees, as a work of mercy, is for Christians a tangible form of living the Jubilee of Mercy, writes Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, in an article in which he explains the meaning of Pope Francis’ decision to celebrate Holy Thursday with refugees in a reception centre for asylum seekers.

“Millions of refugees are showing the world the real features of a new exodus in which we see the movement masses of destitute people, who now have neither home nor homeland,” he writes. “They reluctantly flee under the pressure of gratuitous violence, pointless war and hunger, towards destinations that are often a figment of the imagination rather than reality. Nonetheless the wealthy countries of the west in particular remain indifferent in the face of a drama that is troubling on account of both its duration and the number of people involved.”

“In his appeal on September 6 last year, during the Sunday Angelus shortly before the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope asked that every parish, religious community, monastery and shrine to open its doors to a family, starting with the diocese of Rome. A small but concrete gesture to promote awareness of the international drama. It set in motion a movement that led to the expression of great solidarity amid the silence. However time passes and the initial provocation, unfortunately, seems to have diminished while the problems remain and become increasingly acute. In the first months of the Holy Year of Mercy a significant influx of people from around the world has been registered, a clear sign that Christians experience this moment as an opportunity offered to them to feel God’s closeness, tenderness and forgiveness.”

“Among the seven works of corporal mercy, there is, with its current relevance, that of hospitality,” remarks Archbishop Fisichella. “Welcoming refugees thus becomes for Christians a tangible expression for living the Jubilee of Mercy. In this year, one Friday each month Pope Francis usually gives concrete witness of these works. In the month of December he opened the Holy Door of the ‘Don Luigi di Liegro’ hostel that offers shelter to the homeless and distributes meals every day. In January he visited many elderly people and patients in a vegetative state to demonstrate that the ‘throwaway culture’ has little to do with the Christian vision of life. In February he visited a rehabilitation community for young drug users to offer them hope for the future.

“This coming Holy Thursday Pope Francis will go to Castelnuovo di Porto to spend time with the young refugees sheltered in the Reception Centre for asylum seekers. … The visit will be accompanied by the rite of the washing of the feet. The Pope will bow before twelve refugees and wash their feet as a sign of service and attention to their condition.

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“In last Saturday’s Jubilee audience, commenting on the gesture of washing the feet, the Pope said, ‘Washing the feet of the apostles, Jesus wanted to reveal God’s way of acting towards us, and to give the example of His new commandment of loving each other as He loved us, that is, giving His life for us’. Even more specifically, he added, ‘Love is the concrete service that we render to each other. Love is not words, it is works and service’.

“In the light of these considerations, it is possible to understand the symbolic value that Pope Francis intends to bestow upon his visit to the Centre at Castelnuovo di Porto, and his bowing down to wash the feet of the refugees. He wishes to say to us that it is necessary to give due attention to the weakest at this historical moment; that we are all called upon to restore their dignity, without recourse to subterfuge,” emphasises the prelate. “This drives us to look towards Easter with the eyes of those who transform their faith into a life lived in the service of those whose faces bear the traces of suffering and violence.

“Many of these young people are not Catholics. The sign Pope Francis offers therefore becomes even more eloquent. He indicates the path of respect as the high way towards peace. Respect, in its semantic value, means recognising there is another person beside me. A person who walks with me, suffers with me, rejoices with me. A person who, one day, will be able to lean on me for support. Washing the feet of the refugees, Pope Francis demands respect for each one of them”.

VATICAN INSIDER: WHAT IS THE PERSONAL ORDINARIATE? – A LOOK AT THE NEXT BIG EVENTS ON THE JUBILEE OF MERCY CALENDAR

As you will read below in my preview of “Vatican Insider,” I leave tomorrow for Houston to attend a very important event in the life of the Church as well as of one of her priests. I’ll be writing about this and posting photos when I’m in Houston, and I’ll do my best to be timely and offer good insight but the agenda is quite full so I will have to work hard to find time!

VATICAN INSIDER: WHAT IS THE PERSONAL ORDINARIATE?

If you listen to Vatican Insider when it airs on Saturday, I will be on a plane heading for Houston, Texas. If you listen to the Sunday re-air, I will be in Houston and preparing for a marvelous event on February 2, the episcopal ordination of a good friend, Bishop-elect Steven Lopes, as the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter. The Personal Ordinariate is a structure in the Church created by Pope Benedict in 2009 to answer requests by Anglicans who wanted to enter into full communion with Rome. The first ordinariate to be created was Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK in January 2011. Msgr. Keith Newton, a former Anglican bishop was appointed by Benedict XVI as the first ordinary.

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A second Ordinariate was created a year later on January 1, 2012. in the U.S. and is known as the Personal Ordinariate of the See of Peter. As its website says: The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is equivalent to a diocese for Roman Catholics who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition. Members of the Ordinariate are fully Roman Catholic, while retaining elements of Anglican heritage in their celebration of liturgy and in the hospitality and ministries of their Catholic communities. Based in Houston, Texas, the Ordinariate has more than 40 Roman Catholic parishes and communities across the United States and Canada.

This weekend and next on Vatican Insider, we will re-air my two-part interview with Msgr. Newton, helping you to better understand the ordinariate.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

A LOOK AT THE NEXT BIG EVENTS ON THE JUBILEE OF MERCY CALENDAR

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and Msgr. Graham Bell, under secretary of the same dicastery, presided at a press conference this morning in the Holy See Press Office to explain the event for the Missionaries of Mercy and also the temporary transfer to Rome of the mortal remains of Sts. Pio of Pietrelcina and Leopold Mandic.

The multi-lingual Archbishop Fisichella spoke in Italian but offered an English translation of his talk:

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It is has been almost two months now since Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of St. Peter’s. Since that moment, the Doors of Mercy have been opened all around the world. The incredible number of people who have registered for these events allows us to acknowledge how this insight of Pope Francis, his idea of having this Extraordinary Jubilee, has answered a true need of the people of God who are receiving this event of grace with great joy and enthusiasm. We can conclude from this participation that the Jubilee is being intensely lived in all the world and in every local Church, where this time of grace is being organized as a genuine form of renewal for the Church and as a particular moment of the new evangelization.

Every day we receive thousands of pictures and documents from around the world attesting to the commitment and the faith of believers. Yet all of this activity has not stopped a substantial number of pilgrims from arriving in Rome during this period. According to the data available to us on a daily basis, as of today 1,392,000 people have participated in Jubilee events. An interesting detail is that 40% of those who have attended come from abroad, speaking largely Spanish and French. We have registered pilgrims from Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Korea, Kenya, Mozambique, El Salvador, New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, the Fiji Islands, Russia, Belarus, the Seychelles, the Ivory Coast, Chad, Kuwait, the U.S.A., Albania and from many other countries. I would like to reiterate that this is not the criteria by which to judge the actual outcome of the Jubilee. A Holy Year of Mercy goes well beyond numbers, for it is intended to touch the hearts and the minds of people in order to  assist  them  in  coming to  understand  the  ways  in  which  God’s  great  love manifests itself in their daily lives. It is a time during which to assess our lives of faith and to understand how we are capable of conversion and renewal, both of which come from recognizing the importance of remaining focused upon what is essential. In any case, a general evaluation of the Jubilee cannot be made after only two months but must be done at its conclusion. All of the other considerations at the moment are incomplete and temporary and, thus, do not merit particular attention.

During this period, Pope Francis has carried out two particular signs of his concrete witness of mercy. On Friday, December 18, he opened the Door of Charity in the homeless shelter, “Don Luigi di Liegro”, where he celebrated Holy Mass in the refectory. On January 15, he visited the nursing home for the aged, “Bruno Buozzi” in Torrespaccata, after which he went to Casa Iride where he spent time with those in vegetative states who are being assisted by their families. These signs possess a symbolic value before all of the many needs that are present in society today. They are, however, intended to stir in all of us a greater awareness of the many situations of need in our cities and to offer a small response of caring and aid.

There  are  two  particular events  that  now  merit  our attention.  The  first  pertains  to  the presence in Rome of the urns containing the relics of Saint Leopold Mandić and Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Such an occasion is of great significance for it is an unprecedented event, given the stories of these two saints who spent their lives in the service of the mercy of God. Padre Leopold (1866-1942) was canonized by John Paul II on December 16, 1983 and is less well known than Padre Pio. Yet, his hunger for holiness spread beyond the Church of Padua, where he lived the major part of his life and where his memory and his relics remain. Originally from Croatia, this Capuchin father dedicated all of his life to the confessional. For almost thirty years, he spent from ten to fifteen hours a day in the secrecy of his cell, the very place which became a confessional for thousands of people who found in their relationships with him the privileged witness of forgiveness and of mercy. Some of his brothers noted that he was “ignorant and too lenient in forgiving everyone without discernment.” Yet, his simple and humble response to this charge leaves one speechless: “Should the Crucified blame me for being lenient, I would answer Him: Lord, you gave me this bad example. I have not yet reached the folly of your having died for souls.” Padre Pio (1887-1968), who was canonized in 2002 and also by John Paul II, does not require lengthy presentations. This simple Capuchin friar spent his entire life at San Giovanni Rotondo without ever leaving that town. Certainly, during his life, some in Rome caused him to suffer, but his holiness always prevailed.  In the silence of obedience, he also became a privileged witness of mercy, dedicating all of his life to the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are grateful to the Capuchin  Fathers  and  to  the  Bishops  of  the  Dioceses  of  Padoa  and  Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo for having responded so graciously to the wish of the Pope that the relics of these two saints remain in Rome for a period of time during the Jubilee.

The program is quite simple. The urns containing the relics will arrive in Rome on February 3 where they will be placed in the Church of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura. The church will be open to the faithful starting at 15:00 with a celebration of reception. The relics will remain in San Lorenzo until 20:30 the following day, during which time there will be a number of celebrations reserved for the vast extended Franciscan Family. An all-night vigil is being organized in the Jubilee Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, which will begin at 22:00 on February 4. The prayer will continue until the following day, February 5, with various celebrations and will conclude with Holy Mass at 14:00 presided by His Excellency Michele Castoro, the Archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo. At 16:00, a procession with the two urns containing the relics will begin from San Salvatore in Lauro and then proceed the entire length of Via della Conciliazione in order to arrive at the sagrato of St. Peter’s Basilica. There on the sagrato, His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Comastri, the Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, will receive the relics and after a moment of prayer, will then accompany the relics into the Basilica where they will be placed in the central nave before the  Altar  of  the  Confession  for  people  to  venerate.  The  relics  will  remain  in  St.  Peter’s  for veneration until the morning of February 11 when, after the Holy Mass of thanksgiving at 7:30 am at the Altar of the Chair, they will be returned to their original homes. It is opportune to note that on February 10, Ash Wednesday, the Basilica will remain closed in the morning for the General Audience and then, in the afternoon, Holy Mass will be celebrated in the Basilica to mark the beginning of Lent. Thus, those who wish to venerate the relics are kindly asked to choose to do so on one of the previous days and to follow along the Jubilee reserved walkway in order to enter through the security check point as rapidly as possible.

As previously noted, the second event pertains to the celebration that will take place on Ash Wednesday when the Holy Father will give the mandate to the Missionaries of Mercy. As attested to in the Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae vultus, the Missionaries are to be a “sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. They will be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon. They will be missionaries of mercy because they will be facilitators of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again. They will be led in their mission by the words of the Apostle: ‘For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all’” (Rom11:32).

Thus, the Missionaries of Mercy are a select number of priests who have received from the Pope the charge to be privileged witnesses in their respective Churches of the extraordinariness of this Jubilee event. It is only the Pope who nominates these Missionaries, not the Bishops, and it is he who entrusts them with the mandate to announce the beauty of the mercy of God while being humble and wise confessors who possess a great capacity to forgive those who approach the confessional. The Missionaries, who come from every continent, number over 1,000. I am delighted to announce that there are Missionaries coming from many distant countries and, among these, some of which have a uniquely significant importance such as: Burma, Lebanon, China, South Korea, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Burundi, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Latvia, East Timor, Indonesia, Thailand, and Egypt. There will also be Oriental Rite priests.

We have received a great response for participation but must place a limit on the large number of requests in order to ensure that the specific sign value, one which expresses how truly special the initiative is, be maintained. All of the Missionaries have received the permission of their respective diocesan Bishops or Religious Superiors and will make themselves available to those requesting their services throughout the entirety of the Jubilee but, most especially, during the Lenten Season.

There will be 700 Missionaries arriving in Rome. Pope Francis will meet with them on February 9 in order to express his feelings regarding this initiative which will certainly be one of the most touching and significant of the Jubilee of Mercy. On the following day, only the Missionaries of Mercy will concelebrate  with  the  Holy  Father,  during  which  time they will receive the “mandate”, as well as the faculty to absolve those sins reserved to the Holy See. An interesting story may help to capture the pastoral interest that this initiative has garnered around the world. Father Richard from Australia will visit 27 communities in his rural Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle where there is only one church and no priests in residence. Traveling in a camper, he will journey from community to community as a “Missionary of Mercy on Wheels”! This is but an example of the way in which the Jubilee is meant to reach all, allowing everyone to touch the closeness and the tenderness of God.

Finally, regarding other Jubilee events, the first Jubilee Audience will be held in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday, January 30. Pope Francis has responded generously to the many requests he has received from pilgrims who wish to meet him. Consequently, one Saturday a month has been added to the official calendar for a special audience, one which will be in addition to the regular Wednesday Audiences. This first audience already has 20,000 people registered. Another event of particular interest is the Jubilee for the Curia, the Governorate, and Institutions connected to the Holy See to be held on February 22. This celebration will begin with a reflection given by Father Marco Rupnik at 8:30 am in the Paul VI Hall. After this meditation, there will be a procession through  St.  Peter’s  Square  which  will  pass  through  the  Holy  Door.  Holy Mass  will  then  be celebrated by Pope Francis at 10:00.

The Jubilee continues to following its course and we are certain that, in accord with the desires of Pope Francis, it will be an important occasion “to live out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us.”

VATICAN INSIDER LOOKS AT CATHOLIC EDUCATION – POPE FRANCIS VISITS COUNCIL FOR ECONOMY – LET THE JUBILEE OF MERCY BEGIN! – SHORT TAKES…

It has been quite a day, for a variety of reasons, but one of the main ones for me was the very interesting press conference this morning about the Jubilee of Mercy that will open on Tuesday, December 8. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization – the council in charge of organizing the upcoming Holy Year – gave a very comprehensive talk with a ton of logistical and other information for pilgrims coming to Rome for the Jubilee. You will find that talk below.

As I listened to Abp. Fisichella explain all the Jubilee preparations in a very precise, concise manner, and as I have been walking around Vatican City and the nearby neighborhoods and have seen the preparations and watched workers build the Nativity scene and put up and decorate the beautiful Christmas tree, I only have this to say to people who wonder if they should still come, given the world we live in today: YES, do come to Rome!

The Jubilee, I want to remind you, will be celebrated in each and every diocese of the world and be absolutely sure to participate in whatever events your diocese has organized for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. A Holy Door will be opened on each of the world’s cathedrals in the world so try to attend that locally, if you can.

But if you are wondering whether or not you should come to Rome, don’t hesitate to make plans! This is a beautiful, historic, magical city, a city known for art, opera, millennia of history, hundreds of churches, ancient ruins, and fantastic cuisine.

And there is the other city – Vatican City, the beating, pulsating, historic heart – one of two lungs, along with the Hoy Land – of the Catholic Church and home to the Successor of Peter, Pope Francis. As Catholics, as Christians, it is our home. And indeed, Pope Francis wants the Jubilee to be a welcoming event for people of all religions – and none!

The archbishop this morning gave us serious assurances of the depth and breadth of the security that Italy has planned, especially for the Jubilee. Add to that mix the extremely competent Swiss Guards (FAR more than just fancy uniforms!) and the Vatican gendarmerie!

One word about the organization of this Holy Year. For those who might remember the Jubilee Year 2000, there were three years of planning, by both the city of Rome and the Vatican, to get that massive adventure off the ground. Archbishop Fisichella and his remarkable team have had only nine months! When you see and hear what they have produced – and a Holy Year is a massive undertaking, you will be amazed.

So dust off your passport, pack your rosaries and start planning your spiritual pilgrimage! We await your arrival!

VATICAN INSIDER LOOKS AT CATHOLIC EDUCATION

My guest this week in the interview segment is Dr. John Lydon of St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, London. He was recently in Rome to address the World Congress organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education to commemorate two Vatican Documents on Education.  Dr Lydon is the University’s Program Director for Catholic School Leadership and also the Director of the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies Program.

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As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

POPE FRANCIS VISITS COUNCIL FOR ECONOMY

The press office issued a statement today about Pope Francis’ participation in the meeting of the Council for the Economy Thursday afternoon. The Holy Father explained that the reason for his visit was to personally thank and encourage Council members for the important role they fulfill in the vigilance of the financial and administrative structures of the Holy See. He further confirmed the central role of the Council in this work of reform to which the Holy Father is committed.

On behalf of the Council, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the coordinator of the Council, warmly thanked the Holy Father for his presence at the meeting and reconfirmed its full commitment to the financial and administrative reforms initiated by Pope Francis. Since its institution the Council has dedicated significant time and energy to the consideration and eventual implementation of measures aimed at transparency and a more effective management of the resources of the Holy See.

LET THE JUBILEE OF MERCY BEGIN!

The following are the remarks made by Archbishop Rino Fisichella this morning at a press briefing on the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that opens December 8:

Pope Francis, in the Bull of Indiction for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae vultus, wrote 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” (n. 10). It is with these sentiments in mind that we begin to live the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which will commence on December 8th with the simple but richly significant ceremony for the opening of the Holy Door.

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A first note of information pertains to a few of the immediately important aspects of the organization of the Jubilee. There is a Pilgrimage Information Center at Via della Conciliazione, 7 that opened on December 1st. This is a place to find information about the schedule of events for the Jubilee; to register for the reserved walkway to the Holy Door; to pick up the requested free access tickets for the various celebrations that are required for pilgrims; and to pick up the testimonium (a personalized certificate) of participation in the Jubilee. It is important for me to stress that only the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, through the Information Center, has been given the responsibility of certifying a pilgrim’s presence at the Jubilee, as well as the journey made on foot. Any other attestation issued by other organizations should not be considered authentic. The Information Center will be open every day from 7:30 to 18:30, including Saturdays and Sundays.

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An important role will be played by the Volunteers who will be of service in welcoming and assisting all pilgrims, in particular at Via della Conciliazione and Saint Peter’s Square, in the other Basilicas, and at the Jubilee Churches. In the past months, many have responded to our invitation, and although we are still waiting for further registrations, we now have approximately 100 volunteers every day in service for the Holy Year. This number, obviously, is intended to reach 800-1000 for the Major Events.

The series of Pastoral Resources prepared by the Pontifical Council is already complete. These publications will be of assistance in living the Jubilee Year in a profound way. We have been pleased to see that the series has already reach top sales rankings, a concrete sign of the attention being given to the event, but also of a sincere willingness to live it in a most spiritual way. The series of Pastoral Resources is presently available in 10 languages; of these the publications in Ucrainian and Korean are forthcoming. (JFL: These are available in 3 languages in Rome).

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With that, we arrive at the celebration of the opening of the Holy Door in Saint Peter’s Basilica. The celebration will take place in Saint Peter’s Square beginning at 9:30 a.m. It will be introduced by readings taken from the four Conciliar Constitutions (Dei Verbum, Lumen gentium, Sacrosanctum concilium e Gaudium et spes), along with two passages taken from, Unitatis redintegratio on ecumenism and Dignitatis humanae on religious liberty. As is well known, this day will mark the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. The reading of these passages is intended to recall the profound teaching that came forth from that event, and its continued significant importance for the life of the Church. It was an event that we cannot forget and was reflected upon and achieved over the course of three intense years, in the light of mercy, as Pope Francis himself reminded us in the Bull, citing Saint John XXIII and Blessed Paul VI.

In the procession for the Eucharistic celebration will be carried the Book of the Gospels prepared specifically for the Jubilee by P. Rupnik and published by San Paolo editions. It is a work of art on whose cover is a mosaic reproduction of the Jubilee logo. This Book of the Gospels will be set on the same podium that stood by the altar of Saint Peter’s Basilica during all the sessions of the Council to make evident to everyone the primacy of the Word of God.

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Regarding the opening of the Holy Door: the ceremony, which is very simple, will be broadcast on television worldwide. The Holy Father will request the opening of the Door, and he will then pass through it. After him, the Cardinals, Bishops, and representatives of priests, religious men and women, and laity will cross its threshold, and will continue in procession to the tomb of the Apostle Peter, where the concluding rite of the Holy Mass will take place. The Pope will then lead the Angelus as usual from the window of the Apostolic Palace.

The evening of December 8th will conclude in Saint Peter’s Square with a meaningful and unique presentation entitled “Fiat lux: Illuminating Our Common Home”. It will be a projection of photographs onto the façade and cupola of Saint Peter’s Basilica, taken from a repertoire of some of the world’s great photographers. These illuminations will present images inspired of Mercy, of humanity, of the natural world, and of climate changes. The show is sponsored by the World Bank Group (Connect4Climate), by Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions, by the Li Ka-shing Foundation and by Okeanos. This event, inspired by the most recent encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato si’, is intended to present the beauty of creation, especially on the occasion of the Twenty-first United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop 21), which began in Paris last Monday, November 30, and ends on December 11. The show will begin at 19:00. I can assure everyone that it is a unique event for its genre and for the fact that it is being displayed for the first time on such a significant backdrop.

On Sunday, December 13, for the first time in the history of the Jubilee Years, there will be Holy Doors opened in all the cathedrals of the world. Pope Francis has desired that the Jubilee of Mercy unfold above all in the Particular Churches, and it is precisely for this reason that he wanted to open the Holy Door in the Cathedral of Bangui in the Central African Republic last Sunday, November 29, making it become a world capital of peace and an instrument of mercy. It is a highly significant gesture that makes one understand how much value the Extraordinary Jubilee will have for the life of the Church when it is lived within the context of the daily events of our communities.

Pope Francis will open the Holy Door of his Cathedral of Rome, Saint John Lateran, with the liturgy beginning at 9:30 a.m. It is worth noting the enthusiasm with which the churches throughout the world are preparing for this event. We have received hundreds of communications about this, but would like to make special mention of the Cathedrals of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul; of Saints Peter and Paul in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka; of Christ the King in Mushasha in Gitega, Burundi; of Saint Joseph in Dunedin, New Zealand; of Our Lady of the Presentation in Natal, Brasil; of Myeogdong in Seoul, South Korea; and of Saint George in the Maronite Archdiocese of Beirut.

The following Friday, December 18, the Holy Father will perform a symbolic gesture as he opens the Door of Mercy at the Hostel ostel Ho“Don Luigi Di Liegro,” run by Caritas of Rome, located on Via Marsala. For 25 years, persons in grave need, who require our help, have been received at this hostel. With this first gesture the Holy Father will begin a series of symbolic actions that will take place on one Friday of the month, and which he intends as concrete expressions of the works of mercy. It is important to be mindful that these gestures will have the character of private visits from the Holy Father, in order to maintain, as much as possible, a personal rapport of closeness and solidarity with the persons or institutions visited. They will be a testimony through which Pope Francis intends to highlight the major forms of need, marginalization, and poverty that are present in society, although these forms of poverty are nevertheless united with a strong solidarity on the part of many people who dedicate their time and energy to consoling and giving daily support to those in need.

Beginning on the day of the opening of the Holy Door and throughout the entire Jubilee, the Rosary will be recited daily in Saint Peter’s Square in front of the statue of Saint Peter. Various parishes in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and Religious Institutes present in Rome with a particular consecration to the Mother of God, along with various Institutes of formation, will take turns leading this Rosary.

I would also like to mention the healthcare services available for pilgrims. In each of the four Papal Basilicas there will be a First Aid Station (Pronto Soccorso). Through the generosity of the Onlus Foundation “Giorgio Castelli”, every center will be furnished with a defibrillator. Medical and nursing services are being provided by the Order of Malta, which has the competency and expertise for the management of the First Aid services. It is important to remember that the healthcare structures of the Region of Lazio will also be involved. The Region has organized a structural plan for the entire city, and guarantees, among other services, the permanent placement of a P.M.A. (Posto Medico Avanzato/Advance Medical Post) at Castel Sant’Angelo, along with the new Emergency Room at Santo Spirito Hospital, which will be inaugurated in the coming weeks.

In this context, I am also pleased to remind you that we have planned multiple means of communication for the deaf and blind. In particular, for the former, there will be video-tutorials with Italian and International Sign Language (LIS); while for the latter, there will be audio files that can be downloaded from the Jubilee website that describe the paths, pilgrimages to the Holy Door, and much else. In addition, in Saint Peter’s Basilica and in other Churches, confessionals have been set up without structural barriers, and with other considerations that will facilitate confessions for the deaf. Furthermore, there is also a touch book planned in A3 format that will permit the blind to be guided through the Pilgrimage to the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Finally, the internet site has also been equipped with a facilitated navigation.

The Holy Year of Mercy will in fact be the first in the era of internet and of social media. In this regards, I would like to draw your attention to the importance of the official website of the Jubilee (http://www.im.va). This site, translated into seven languages, will permit those who cannot be physically present to follow the Major Jubilee events that will take place in Rome. To register for the passage through the Holy Door, and likewise to become a volunteer, it is necessary to enroll on the indicated sections of the site.

In addition, I believe it opportune here to say a few words about the Portal “vatimecum”, endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, by means of which pilgrims may obtain services relating to room and board in Rome at controlled prices, along with a great deal of other information about living the Jubilee. (www.vatimecum.com).

A Holy Year to place mercy at the center. The initiatives already planned within the Church are many, but there are also others who are seeking to reflect on this theme, unfortunately too-often forgotten. Among these, I would like to point out that of CENSIS, “Mercy 2016, The Peripheries at the Center”, which will be concerned with promoting an organized program on the theme of Mercy, seeking to understand today, in society, in the economy and in the reception of the other, what it means to be merciful, to take on oneself the difficulties of others, bringing back to the center that which the contemporary world marginalizes and pushes to the peripheries.

The initiative of the “Missionaries of Mercy” merits a final consideration. We have closed registration for the Missionaries because the number of priests has already reached more than 800 requests. The Missionaries are priests who come from various parts of the world, and who were proposed by their own bishops to carry out this special service. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, they will receive the mandate from the Holy Father to be preachers of mercy and confessors full of mercy. They will receive from the Holy Father the faculty to forgive sins reserved to the Holy See, and will be the sign of the closeness and pardon of God for all. It is important for me to underscore that the Missionaries of Mercy are appointed exclusively by the Holy Father, and that the faculty of forgiving reserved sins will be given to each one of them personally. No bishop in his own diocese may appoint these Missionaries, nor may he confer faculties that he does not possess. Anyone wishing to invite the Missionaries for a liturgy, a retreat, or a special event can do so by accessing the list that will be made available to bishops.

The Jubilee is already at hand. We are certain that it will be lived intensely by pilgrims who, whether it be in their own Particular Churches or in Rome, will cross through the Holy Door. For this occasion the Holy Father has granted all the Bishops of the world the power to give the Papal Blessing at the Holy Mass for the opening of the Holy Door, and for the closure of the door at the end of the Holy Year. This Jubilee will be an experience of mercy for each person to feel more intimately the love of God, who like a Father welcomes everyone and excludes no one. It will be a significant time for all the Church to remember that mercy is the essence of her proclamation to the world, and to render every believer a tangible instrument of the tenderness of God. As Pope Francis wrote: “In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy” (n. 12).

SHORT TAKES…

ANSA – Around 900 municipal police officers will be deployed on the streets of Rome for the start of the Jubilee, the commander of the force said Friday. For the Holy Year eve on December 7, 300 officers will be deployed, Police Commander Raffaele Clemente and Rome Subcommissioner Iolanda Rolli said in a statement. Some 600 will be called into action on December 8, the opening day. Officers for the opening two days of the Holy Year will be recruited on a voluntary basis and will be paid overtime. They will be responsible for directing the flow of pilgrims around St Peter’s as well as a crackdown on illegal vendors.

ANSA – Rome Commissioner Francesco Paolo Tronca signed an ordinance Friday banning all commercial activity for one year in public areas around St. Peter’s Basilica, and during large events in the surrounding areas, to begin December 7 on the eve of the Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy.  The ban will affect traveling souvenir vendors and snack vans for a total of 47 businesses in all, of which 14 will be affected for the entire year.

 

ANSA – Pope Francis is the “media phenomenon of the year” according to research institute Censis, which on Friday said 77.9% of Catholics in Rome called the pope’s charisma one of Catholicism’s strengths.   Censis also cited data from American fact tank Pew Research Center, showing that Pope Francis outranked both U.S. presidential candidate Hilary Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin in U.S. media coverage.

OFFICIAL CALENDAR PRESENTED FOR JUBILEE OF MERCY – UPDATE FROM TURIN

This is totally out of left field and unrelated to what I bring you in this daily column but here goes: Daily I receive via email a Word of the Day from dictionary.com. For some reason I found today’s word – a synonym for gobbledegook – fun and interesting (as is gobbledegook). The word is bafflegab: 1. Noun. Slang. Means confusing or generally unintelligible jargon; gobbledegook: an insurance policy written in bafflegab impenetrable to a lay person. BAF-uhl-gab

I’m sure all of us have experienced bafflegab without knowing what to call it – reading insurance policies or the fine print on airline tickets, on utility bills and the “I agree” forms when you sign up for almost anything online. You find it in instructions for the use of electronic devices (especially when it is a translation of the original Japanese or Korean), and the acres of instructions on income tax forms, insurance claim forms, etc. You get the idea.

As long as there is no bafflegab on these pages, life is good!

And now to the serious – and fascinating! – news of the day, a Vatican press conference on the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy. I’m writing a book on the Jubilee so found today’s offerings both interesting and useful.

You will also want to read my UPDATE FROM TURIN – really interesting information.

OFFICIAL CALENDAR PRESENTED FOR JUBILEE OF MERCY

One of the more fascinating press conferences I have attended in recent memory was this morning’s presentation of the Jubilee of Mercy, including the official calendar of events, by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the council to which Pope Francis entrusted the preparetion of this Holy Year.

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A number of things were remarkable about the press conference. In the first place, Pope Francis only announced the Jubilee less than two months ago, on March 13, and yet, here was the council president offering us the calendar of events that will take place at the Vatican and in Rome for the December 8, 2015-November 20, 2016 Holy Year of Mercy. For a Vatican event – perhaps for any other organization – that is extraordinary speed!

And the speed with which the website was completed is also surprising! Check it out today, with all the new additions: http://www.iubilaeummisericordiae.va – and if your Latin is less than perfect, you can also go to www.im.va   The website uses a number of social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and Flickr).

As if this was not enough, all of this – the archbishop’s presentation of the Jubilee and the contents of the website – are in 7 languages.

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Given the fact that Pope Francis’ announcement on March 13 of a Jubilee of Mercy took everyone by surprise. Archbishop Fisichella was asked when he found out! He said he had a private meeting with Pope Francis last August about a number of matters and at one point, the Pope said, “I certainly would love to have a Holy Year of Mercy.”  That sounds to me like a “your wish is my command” statement!

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In his presentation today, the archbishop noted that, “It is the Pope’s desire that this Jubilee be celebrated in Rome as well as in the local Churches; this will give due focus to the life of individual Churches and their needs, in such a way that the initiatives will not place an extra burden on local Churches, but will blend into their calendars and usual activities very naturally. Also, for the first time in the 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 a shrine of particular importance for pilgrimages.”

He underscored that this Jubilee “is based upon a theme. It will build upon the central content of the faith and intends to call the Church once again to its missionary priority of being a sign and witness in every aspect of its pastoral life. I also have in mind Pope Francis’s appeal to Judaism and Islam as loci in which to contextualize the theme of mercy in order to foster dialogue and a way of overcoming difficulties in the public realm.

We were shown the logo for the Jubilee.

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Archbishop Fisichella said, “It shows an image quite important to the early Church: that of the Son having taken upon his shoulders the lost soul, demonstrating that it is the love of Christ that brings to completion the mystery of his incarnation culminating in redemption.” Note, he said, that Christ carries not a lamb, but a man. He also pointed out that, “the three concentric ovals, with colors progressively lighter as we move outward, suggest the movement of Christ who carries humanity out of the darkness of sin and death. Conversely, the depth of the darker color suggests the impenetrability of the love of the Father who forgives all. “

In explaining the calendar of celebrations, the council president said, “some events are being organized which most likely will involve large crowds of people. We wanted the first event, which will be held from January 19-21, to be dedicated to all those involved with the organization of pilgrimages.” He then listed other events on the official Jubilee Year calendar (click here to see calendar: http://www.iubilaeummisericordiae.va/content/gdm/en/calendario.html

Archbishop Fisichella noted that, “on November 6 , we will celebrate the Jubilee for those in prison. This will be held not only in prisons but we have been studying the possibility of giving many of those in prison the opportunity to celebrate their own Holy Year with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica.”

He also spoke of “meeting the needs of the many pilgrims who will come alone to Rome apart from any organized tour or tour group,” noting, “there will be a number of churches in the historic center of Rome where they will feel welcome, where they can have moments of reflective prayer and prepare themselves thoroughly to walk through the Holy Door in an atmosphere of genuine spiritual devotion.”

UPDATE FROM TURIN

FOR THE ILL: For the first time in the history of public expositions of the Shroud of Turin, tomorrow, May 6 will be dedicated not only to the ill and disabled, as the cathedral does every Wednesday, but to persons affected with very grave pathologies. The Medical Services of the Exposition Committee has instituted a procedure whereby all sick people, including those in wheelchairs or on stretchers will be able to directly access the immediate waiting area of the cathedral, thus by-passing the brief path normally reserved to the disabled. Following verification by the medical staff, the disabled will be assigned a reservation time between 4:30 and 5:30 pm. They will be accompanied by volunteers and the very ill will be assisted throughout the visit by their own doctor. An estimated 600 ill and disabled are expected tomorrow.

CONFESSIONS: For those wishing to confess before or after their visit to the shroud, the Sacrament of Penance is being offered in front of the cathedral of Turin where 6 confessionals have been placed, in addition to the four confessionals at the Church of Santo Spirito in Via Porta Palatina. One hundred ninty-four (194) priests have offered their services for the entire period of the exposition of the Shroud of Turin: 51 are from the diocese of Turin and 143 for other dioceses. The priests speak Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish, Rumanian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Arabic, Swahili, Indonesian and Malayalam. It is above all adults between the ages of 45 and 65 who have been going to confession, 70% of whom are women. Of those who confess, 85% do so after having seen the Shroud of Turin.

VISITORS: Among today’s visitors from around the world was a family from Cambodia with their 11 children.  Yesterday’s visitors included a group of 20 Catholics from Moscow, led by Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, archbishop of Moscow’s Mother of God Catholic archdiocese. Abp. Pezzi gave Turin’s archbishop and the people of the diocese a book about the metropolitan cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He explained the ties between the Shroud – which he and his group saw for the first time in their lives – and their church in Moscow. The archbishop has been the metropolitan in Moscow for eight years. His diocese is 6 times the size of Italy and has 65 parishes.

CHILDREN AND THE SHROUD:  At the official Shroud of Turin bookstore in Piazza Castello, a corner is reserved for little children where a DVD is shown throughout the day entitled “Mystery after Mystery. It is an animated cartoon produced in Turin with the sponsorship of the Shoud Exposition Committte. It is divided into various parts, each lasting two minutes, that tell the story of the Shroud.