From the opening of the first Holy Door in Bangui to the “Mea culpa”, when “we looked the other way” and failed to see the poor person standing near us. Mercy, forgiveness, tenderness: those are the words that reverberated more often throughout the Extraordinary Year of Mercy. It was the first ever “worlwide” Jubilee, celebrated on the initiative of Pope Francis simultaneously in Rome and in world dioceses. Countless images will remain in our collective memory: we hereby mention a few, drawn from the many “first times” introduced by Francis in the traditional celebration of Jubilee Years. The Doors of Mercy close around the world while “under the merciful gaze of the Lord history unfolds in its uncertain flow and in its interweaving of good and evil”, the Pope said in the Angelus Prayer of November 13.” From the Jubilee a certainty that sounds like a viaticum for today and for tomorrow: in spite of everything, “God does not abandon his children.”
November 29 2015, 4:30 p.m. in Bangui. The Pope enters the cathedral and opens the first Holy Door of the Holy Year in a “periphery” martyred by conflicts. It’s the first decentralized Jubilee in the history of the Church, carrying the undertone of a specific geopolitical choice coupled by another unprecedented decision: to open in Rome a Holy Door of charity at a Caritas Hostel and soup kitchen near Termini train Station. In his ad-libbed homily the Pope expressed the hope that the Jubilee may “open the hearts” of Rome’s population, praying to Lord to give them the grace “of feeling rejected.” Ten days earlier, the official opening of the Jubilee is pictured in another memorable image: at 11,10 a.m. Pope Francis crosses the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. Following him, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who shortly before he had fraternally embraced. Francis’ words recall those that bind him to a previous Jubilee, celebrated in the year 2000. “We are not afraid”, the Pope reiterates in the Jubilee celebrated at the time of ISIS. The Holy Doors of the world are opened on December 13.
On January 30, the first Jubilee audience celebrated on a Saturday – yet an innovation characterising Francis’ Jubilee – ushering in the monthly flow of thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s square. Of a private, almost “surprise” nature are the “Fridays of Mercy” introduced by the Pope: one per month dedicated to visiting the elderly, people in a vegetative state, drug-addicts, refugees and migrants, rehabilitation centres for the mentally disabled or for elderly, suffering priests, women liberated from the slavery of prostitution, children and the terminally ill. The last “Friday”, in November was dedicated to the visit of a community of families formed by young people who have left the priesthood.
Lent begins with another unprecedented initiative: the Pope commissioned 1.142 “Missionaries of mercy” from every continent that he personally selected as special ambassadors of the Holy See who were given the authority to forgive even sins “reserved” to the Apostolic See.
The Pope, a surprise confessor in St. Peter’s Square. Seated on a simple chair like those of his 150 “colleague” priests. On April 23 70 thousand adolescents filled St Peter’s square on the first of the “three-day” Jubilee of young people – a first for the Jubilee -. To this sort of “mini-WYD” it came as a surprise, and not in terms of numbers.
We need “the reasons of the heart” to dry the tears that we see “in so many faces around us”; “that are shed every second in our world;” each of which “is different but together they form, as it were, an ocean of desolation”, they are the “bitterest tears caused by human evil.” It was May 5, the day of the Prayer Vigil to dry the tears, another unprecedented event in the Year of the Jubilee, to learn how to express one of the works of mercy: “Console the afflicted.”
120thousand faithful and pilgrims are gathered in St Peter’s square to attend one of the most anticipated and acclaimed events: the canonization of Mother Theresa. We will continue to call her “Mother Teresa”, Pope Francis says referring to the “tenderness revolution” that an “artisan” of mercy” brought to her mission, a “model of holiness” for all.
Never before had one thousand convicts gathered in St Peter’s Square, with volunteers, operators and relatives, forming a “population” of 4 thousand people.
The Pope looks at them straight in the eyes. In a spirit of sharing during the Mass of November 6 he calls for an “act of clemency” and for better living conditions in prisons worldwide.
He dedicated three days to the homeless, to the poor, to the excluded. It’s the Jubilee of Socially Excluded people, chosen by the Pope, November 11-13, to conclude the public events of the Jubilee, before the closing Mass of November 20.
“I ask your forgiveness for all the times that we Christians looked the other way”, was Francis’ “mea culpa” shared in an impromptu speech in Spanish, delivered during his first meeting with these special guests convened in the Paul VI audience Hall. “Poverty is the heart of the Gospel”, the Pope said; “we all have to build a poor Church for the poor.” At the end of the audience, participants prayed with the Pope, each of them gently placing a hand on his shoulders. “I wish that this day was the Day of the poor”, the Pope said in the Mass of November 13. In the Angelus Prayer that followed shortly after the Pope thus summarised the significance of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy: “To stand firm in the Lord, to walk in hope and to work to build a better world.”