In his letter, Pope Francis explains how to obtain indulgence. Of course, the first way is to undertake a pilgrimage to Rome, to the Holy Door or to one of the four Papal Basilicas in the Italian capital. But the Holy Door will also be opened “in every Cathedral and in several churches chosen by the diocesan bishop”, in all “Sanctuaries with a Door of Mercy and in all Jubilee churches”.
But there is more to it than that. Pope Francis also thought about elderly and sick people who cannot undertake a pilgrimage. They will be able to obtain indulgence by watching the Holy Mass on television from home.
“Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial”, these are the words written in Pope Francis’ letter, “receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence.”
And of course, the letter would not be complete without a reflection dedicated to convicts: “They may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.”
The Jubilee: its meaning
What is a Jubilee? A Jubilee is a Holy Year. In its official definition found in the Vatican website, it is
“a year of forgiveness of sins and also the punishment due to sin, it is a year of reconciliation between adversaries, of conversion and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and consequently of solidarity, hope, justice, commitment to serve God with joy and in peace with our brothers and sisters.”
It is a tradition extensively described in the Bible, more precisely in a book from the Old Testament: the Leviticus (25,10-13):
“and you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field. n this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.”
This means that the Jubilee will be an occasion to obtain plenary indulgence for all those who will follow the celebrations and will undergo all those requirements established by the catholic Church.
Nowadays the catholic Church celebrates the ordinary Jubilee every 25 years. Therefore, the next Jubilee will be in 2025.
The previous Jubilee took place in 2000.
This Jubilee, wanted by Pope Francis, will be extraordinary, like the one proclaimed by Pope Pius XI in 1933 or by John Paul II in 1983.
All the Jubilee in History
The 2015-16 Jubilee will be the thirtieth. Here is the list of the previous jubilees, together with the name of the Pope who presided them and the name of the Pope who announced them, when different. In one case (1700), the Jubilee was opened by a Pope and closed by another. Francis’ Jubilee is the sixth extraordinay one (the others being announced in 1390, 1423, 1933, 1966 and most recently in 1983).
1300: Boniface VIII
1350: Clement VI
1390: extraordinary Jubilee. It is announced by Urban VI and presided by Boniface IX
1400: Boniface IX
1423: extraordinary Jubilee. Announced and presided by Martin V
1450: Nicholas V
1475: announced by Paul II, presided by Sixtus IV
1500: Alexander VI
1525: Clement VII
1550: announced by Paul III, presided by Julius III
1575: Gregory XIII
1600: Clement VIII
1625: Urban VIII
1650: Innocent X
1675: Clement X
1700: presided by two Popes. It is opened by Innocent XII and closed by Clement XI
1725: Benedict XIII
1750: Benedict XIV
1775: announced by Clement XIV, presided by Pius VI
1825: Leone XII
1875: Pius IX
1900: Leo XIII
1925: Pius XI
1933: extraordinary Jubilee, announced and presided by Pius XI
1950: Pius XII
1966: extraordinary Jubilee, announced and presided by Paul VI for the closing of the Second Vatican Council
1975: Paul VI
1983: extraordinary Jubilee, announced and presided by John Paul II
2000: John Paul II
2015: extraordinary Jubilee, announced by Pope Francis