A NATIVITY SCENE FROM MALTA! – PAPAL GRATITUDE FOR ORGANIZERS OF JUBILEE OF MERCY – THERE’S ALSO THIS…

A NATIVITY SCENE FROM MALTA!

I had a fairly amazing evening last night but I should never really be surprised at what happens or whom I should meet when I go to La Vittoria restaurant!

At 7:30, I met a friend from the States who was in Rome for a few days of work at the Order of Malta. It was fairly quiet at La Vittoria but at one point, a bit late, a group of 8 men came in and sat down together. I was trying to understand what language they spoke but without success. They were enjoying dinner and conversing in low tones and I kept wondering about the dialect or language.

As Margaret and I were leaving, Valentino, one of the waiters told us these men were from the Maltese island of Gozo and were building the Vatican’s Nativity scene (It has a Malta theme)!! Well, I pivoted as fast as I could and went back into the main room to their table, introduced myself – they all knew EWTN! – and got the story and a few photos! We spoke in English. Manuel, who seemed to be the head builder or at least spokesperson, told me they start building today and the scene will be unveiled December 9th. They invited me to come ‘behind the scenes’, so to speak and I will do that as soon as possible. Of course I can’t do any photos before the 9th but what fun it would be in any case.

Shortly before I met the Maltese crew, a young man came to my table and introduced himself as a big fan of my work on EWTN, telling me in particular how his brief, 36 hours in Rome had benefited greatly by my book on the Holy Year. Paul is from Kansas City, MO., and when he learned of the Nativity scene builders, he took one of these photos.

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As I’ve written so many times on this page, “life in the fast lane!”

PAPAL GRATITUDE FOR ORGANIZERS OF JUBILEE OF MERCY

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Monday with religious and civil authorities who organized the recently concluded Jubilee Year of Mercy, including members of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization, headed by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, as well as police chiefs and Italian officials in charge of local and regional security.

Pope Francis spoke of the origin of his idea for a year of mercy, describing it as “a simple intuition” which the Lord transformed into a celebration of faith and joy for Christian communities throughout the world.

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The opening of doors of mercy in so many cathedrals and shrines, he went on, enabled people to freely experience the love of God in their lives. The fruits of this extraordinary event must now become part of our daily living, he said, so that mercy truly becomes a permanent lifestyle for all Christians.

The Pope went on to thank all those individuals and organizations who worked hard to guarantee the safety and smooth running of the jubilee, which officially concluded on November 20th, the final Sunday of the liturgical year.

In particular, he mentioned Italy’s Home Affairs minister, the regional Lazio authorities and local chiefs of police who worked together with the Swiss Guards,  Vatican police and other offices of the Holy See to ensure a positive experience for the millions of pilgrims who travelled to Rome over the past year.

Last, but not least, he thanked members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and all the volunteers from different parts of the world who worked so hard to transform this event into a real moment of grace. “May your efforts,” he concluded, “be rewarded by the experience of mercy which the Lord will not fail to grant you.”

THERE’S ALSO THIS…

POPE FRANCIS HAS SENT A TELEGRAM TO the newly-elected superior general of the Jesuit Order, Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, upon learning of the death of Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the former head of the Society of Jesus, who died in Beirut on Saturday, just days short of his 88th birthday. The Pope sent the telegram in his own name, recalling Father Kolbach’s career. His fidelity to the Gospel: Hearing the news of the pious death of the Reverend Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., the former Superior General of the Company of Jesus, I desire to express to you and to the whole Jesuit family my heartfelt condolences. Recalling the integral fidelity of Father Kolvenbach to Christ and His Gospel, joined to a generous commitment in exercising his office with a spirit of service for the good of the Church, I lift up my prayers of suffrage, invoking, from the divine mercy, eternal peace for his soul. Spiritually present at the funeral rites, I cordially impart to you, to your brothers, and to those who share the sorrow for this loss, the Apostolic Blessing.

POPE FRANCIS RECEIVED IRELAND’S PRIME MINISTER Enda Kenny on Monday. A Vatican communiqué said the two “evoked the historical ties between the Holy See and Ireland, and underlined the continued contribution ensured by the Catholic Church in the fields of education and social service.” They also “spoke of the importance of the role of Christians in the public sphere, especially in promoting respect for the dignity of every person, beginning with the weakest and most defenseless.” Other topics included “an exchange of views on Europe, with particular reference to migration, youth employment and the main challenges that the continent has to deal with, from the political point of view and institutional.” Dublin, Ireland was chosen by Francis as the site of the next World Meeting of Families in 2018.

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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: FR. GENO SYLVA AND THE JUBILEE OF MERCY – POPE FRANCIS TO SAY MASS AT U.S. SEMINARY IN ROME – POPE FRANCIS WELCOMES MEMBERS OF PAPAL FOUNDATION

VATICAN INSIDER: FR. GENO SYLVA AND THE JUBILEE OF MERCY

Vatican Insider will be a very special edition this weekend as I am devoting almost the entire program to a conversation I had about the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy with Fr. Geno Sylva, an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. There will be a few news headlines, not a long news summary, and no Q&A this week on VI.

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The conversation is riveting –we talk all about the meaning of and the plans and preparations for one of the biggest forthcoming events on the Vatican calendar – – the Jubilee Year of Mercy whose plans were entrusted to this pontifical council by Pope Francis. The Holy Father only announced this a little over a month ago so the council is in the early stages of planning but working feverishly and with great enthusiasm so that all is ready by December 8 when the Holy Door will be opened at St. Peter’s Basilica.

I think I can safely say one thing: after listening to the final three minutes, you’ll sit back in silence and reflect!

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 TO SAY MASS AT U.S. SEMINARY IN ROME

Very exciting news for the U.S. seminary in Rome.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the Pontifical North American College on May 2 to celebrate Mass during a Day of Reflection with the title “Fra Junípero Serra: Apostle of California, and Witness to Sanctity.”

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Pope Francis has announced he intends to canonize Blessed Junípero Serra during his visit to the United States in September.

The Pontifical North American College is the national seminary for the United States, and is located on the Janiculum Hill, which overlooks St. Peter’s Basilica.

The event is being organized by the College and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and more information will be released at a Press Conference on April 20, 2015, at the Holy See Press Office.

POPE FRANCIS WELCOMES MEMBERS OF PAPAL FOUNDATION

Friday, Pope Francis greeted members of U.S.-based Papal Foundation  who are in Rome on their annual spring pilgrimage. The Papal Foundation was founded in the United States in 1988 to establish an endowment to support the mission of the Holy Father. The endowment has grown to over $220 million.

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As the Foundation website notes, nearly 130 Stewards, family members, cardinals and bishops from across the U.S. are in Rome as part of an annual pilgrimage that delivers millions of dollars to support the charitable work of the Holy Father during the coming year. “The Foundation’s annual pilgrimage to Rome is always a highlight,” reflects James Coffey, the Foundation’s Vice President for Advancement, “but this year we are especially grateful to be marking our 25th year of support for the Holy Father and his outreach to a world in need.”

Under the title, “Celebrating 25 Years of Giving,” the Foundation points out that it presented its first financial support to Pope (now Saint) John Paul II and the Holy See in April 1990. Since then, it has provided over $111 million in grants and scholarships to build the Church, educate and prepare leaders, and care for the most vulnerable people, young and old, around the world. The Foundation’s commitment is to walk in union with the Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church, and to bring the love of Christ to a world in need.

In remarks this morning to the Papal Foundation the Pope noted that, “the wide variety of projects supported by the Foundation gives witness to the ceaseless efforts of the Church to promote the integral development of the human family, conscious as she is of the immense and ongoing needs of so many of our brothers and sisters.  Wisely does The Papal Foundation devote a sizeable percentage of its resources to the education and formation of young priests, religious and lay men and women, hastening the day when their local Churches may be self-supportive, and, indeed, pass on the fruits of such generosity to others.”

Expressing his gratitude for their work, the Holy Father spoke of the coming Jubilee of Mercy and said, “I ask our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the face of the Father’s mercy’, to refresh and renew each one of you through his mercy, the greatest of his many gifts.”

VATICAN INSIDER TALKS TO MARY MCFARLAND OF JC-HEM – JUBILEE YEAR BULL OF INDICTION TO BE READ AT HOLY DOOR

VATICAN INSIDER TALKS TO MARY MCFARLAND OF JC-HEM

And you ask: What is JC-HEM?

Tune in this weekend and you’ll hear Mary McFarland explain the organization of which she is co-founder and international director  – Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins (JC-HEM). She will tell the remarkable story of how JC-HEM created distance learning for higher education in refugee camps.

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Mary is my special guest this week, and we first met at the March 8 Voices of Faith event in the Vatican. Celebrated on International Woman’s Day, Voices of Faith was founded by Chantal Goetz, executive director of the Goetz Foundation, whose story you heard here a few weeks back

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Mary’s stories of how many refugees, now adults, have lived in camps their entire lives is a moving one. How she and JC-HEM try to get them out of the abyss of ignorance is an even more moving tale.  So tune in this weekend and listen to Mary McFarland on Saturday or Sunday.

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=

JUBILEE YEAR BULL OF INDICTION TO BE READ AT HOLY DOOR

(VIS) – At 5.30 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday April 11, the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pope will officially convoke the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy with the publication of the Bull of Indiction, “Misericordiae vultus.” The Jubilee Bull, aside from indicating the duration, opening and closing dates, and the main ways in which the Holy Year will unfold, constitutes the basic document for understanding the spirit in which it was convoked, as well as Pope Francis’ intentions and the fruit he hopes the Year will bear.

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For the proclamation, the Holy Father, accompanied by the cardinals, will proceed to the entrance of the Vatican Basilica. At the side of the Holy Door, the Bull of Indiction will be handed to the four cardinal archpriests of the papal basilicas of Rome: Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican; Cardinal Agostino Vallini, archpriest of the Basilica of St. John Lateran; Cardinal James Michael Harvey, archpriest of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls; and Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

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To express his wish that the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy be celebrated in Rome and throughout the world, Pope Francis will consign a copy of the Bull, thus presenting it symbolically to all bishops, to Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; to Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; and to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. A copy will be received by Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, born in Hong Kong and now secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, on behalf of all the East. The African continent will be represented by Archbishop Bartolome Adoukonou, a native of Benin and currently secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture. For the Oriental Churches, the Holy Father will present the Bull to Msgr. Khaled Ayad Bishay of the Patriarchal Church of Alexandria of the Copts.

The Regent of the Papal Household, Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, as apostolic protonotary, will read various extracts from the official document convoking the extraordinary Holy Year. Finally, the Holy Father will preside at the celebration of First Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday.

(For those wishing to follow this event live on EWTN, here is a link to the booklet that will be used for this ceremony and for the First Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday that follow the publication of the Bill of Indiction: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2015/20150411-libretto-consegna-bolla-anno-santo.pdf)

(News.va) On March 13, the day Pope Francis surprised the world with his announcement of the Holy Year of Mercy, the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization published this explanatory note for the upcoming Holy Year, the Jubilee of Mercy:

In St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis announced today, March 13, 2015, 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 with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. At the start of the new year, the Holy Father 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!”

The Jubilee announcement had been made on the second anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, during his homily for the penitential liturgy with which the Holy Father opened the “24 Hours for the Lord”. This initiative, proposed by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, promotes throughout the world the opening of churches for an extended period of time for the purpose of inviting people to the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The theme for this year has been taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, “God rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4).

The opening of this next Jubilee will take place on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. This is of great significance, for it impels the Church to continue the work begun at Vatican II.

During the Jubilee, the Sunday readings for Ordinary Time will be taken from the Gospel of Luke, the one referred to as “the evangelist of mercy”. Dante Alighieri describes him as “scriba mansuetudinis Christi”, “narrator of the meekness of Christ”. There are many well-known parables of mercy presented in the Gospel of Luke: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the merciful father.

The official and solemn announcement of the Holy Year will take place with the public proclamation of the Bolla in front of the Holy Door on (the vigil of) Divine Mercy Sunday, the Feast instituted by Saint John Paul II and celebrated on the Sunday after Easter.

In the ancient Hebrew tradition, the Jubilee Year, which was celebrated every 50 years, was meant to restore equality among all of the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families which had lost their property and even their personal freedom. In addition, the Jubilee Year was a reminder to the rich that a time would come when their Israelite slaves would once again become their equals and would be able to reclaim their rights. “Justice, according to the Law of Israel, consisted above all in the protection of the weak” (St. John Paul II, Tertio millenio adveniente 13).

The Catholic tradition of the Holy Year began with Pope Boniface VIII in 1300. Boniface VIII had envisioned a Jubilee every century. From 1475 onwards – in order to allow each generation to experience at least one Holy Year – the ordinary Jubilee was to be celebrated every 25 years. However, an extraordinary Jubilee may be announced on the occasion of an event of particular importance.

Until present, there have been 26 ordinary Holy Year celebrations, the last of which was the Jubilee of 2000. The custom of calling extraordinary Jubilees dates back to the XVI century. The last extraordinary Holy Years, which were celebrated during the previous century, were those in 1933, proclaimed by Pius XI to celebrate XIX hundred years of Redemption and in 1983, proclaimed by John Paul II on the occasion of the 1950 years of Redemption.

The Catholic Church has given to the Hebrew Jubilee a more spiritual significance. It consists in a general pardon, an indulgence open to all, and the possibility to renew one’s relationship with God and neighbor. Thus, the Holy Year is always an opportunity to deepen one’s faith and to live with a renewed commitment to Christian witness.

With the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis focuses attention upon the merciful God who invites all men and women to return to Him. The encounter with God inspires in one the virtue of mercy.

The initial rite of the Jubilee is the opening of the Holy Door. This door is one which is only opened during the Holy Year and which remains closed during all other years. Each of the four major basilicas of Rome has a Holy Door: Saint Peter’s, St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major. This rite of the opening of the Holy Door illustrates symbolically the idea that, during the Jubilee, the faithful are offered an “extraordinary pathway” towards salvation.

The Holy Doors of the other Basilicas will be opened after the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Mercy is a theme very dear to Pope Francis, as is expressed in the episcopal motto he had chosen: “miserando atque eligendo”. This citation is taken from the homily of Saint Bede the Venerable during which he commented on the Gospel passage of the calling of Saint Matthew: “Vidit ergo lesus publicanum et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi Sequere me” (Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, ‘follow me’). This homily is a tribute to divine mercy. One possible translation of this motto is “With eyes of mercy”.

During the first Angelus after his elections, the Holy Father stated: “Feeling mercy, that this word changes everything. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient” (Angelus, March 17, 2013).

In his Angelus on January 11, 2015, he stated: “There is so much need of mercy today, and it is important that the lay faithful live it and bring it into different social environments. Go forth! We are living in the age of mercy, this is the age of mercy”. Then, in his 2015 Lenten Message, the Holy Father expressed: “How greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!”

In the English edition of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium the term mercy appears 32 times.

Pope Francis has entrusted the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization with the organization of the Jubilee of Mercy.

The background piece then listed all previous Jubilee years and their Popes.