Pope's Jubilee Year on Theme of Mercy to Kick off Tuesday

Manila Bulletin, December 7, 2015 | Go to article overview

Pope's Jubilee Year on Theme of Mercy to Kick off Tuesday


Pope Francis will this week launch an "extraordinary" Roman Catholic Jubilee on the theme of mercy during which priests will be allowed to absolve women who have had abortions.

In the latest incarnation of a 700-year-old Catholic tradition, Tuesday will mark the beginning of a holy period of just under a year in which believers are encouraged to renew their relationship with God and seek forgiveness for their sins.

Francis set a new tone for this Jubilee with his surprise announcement in September that he would be granting every priest the discretion to absolve women for having had abortions.

Catholic Church dogma considers terminating a pregnancy a heinous sin, and it is normally punishable by excommunication.

Pro-choice groups are sceptical about whether many women -- or doctors who carry out abortions for that matter -- will avail themselves of the pope's offer to confess.

Instead, many Vatican watchers saw the move as another example of Francis signalling his desire to change the Church's approach from condemnation of wrongdoing to an understanding of the difficulties faced by 21st-century believers.

"The greater the sin, the greater the love the Church must express," the Argentinian pontiff said when he announced the extraordinary Jubilee in March on the second anniversary of his election.

At the time, many interpreted Francis' move as highly political, coming as it did just four months after his plans for reform of attitudes to divorce and homosexuality had run into fierce opposition from traditionalist bishops at a synod on the family.

The jubilee runs until November 20, 2016. As has been the case for seven centuries, pilgrims visiting Rome will be able to mark the occasion by entering St Peter's and other famous churches through special Holy Doors that are kept bricked up between Jubilees.

Global Holy Doors

But the pilgrimage is no longer a required rite. In a Francis innovation, believers will have access to Holy Doors around the world -- including in the Central African Republic capital Bangui, where the pope himself opened a door last month.

The pope on Sunday said he hoped the year would be a chance to repair divisions between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians dating to the 11th century.

Speaking on the 50-year anniversary of a joint declaration by then Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras expressing regret for many of the past actions that led up to the Great Schism between the Western and Eastern rites, he said he hoped for "new steps in mutual forgiveness". …

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