'Sunday (11/20) was the Mass marking the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. There were huge crowds for the outdoor Mass on a picture-perfect day.' CNS photo/Paul Haring
Sunday (11/20) was the Mass marking the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. There were huge crowds for the outdoor Mass on a picture-perfect day. The Mass began with the closing of the Holy Door.
...One of my thoughts on the Year of Mercy that I shared frequently is that it was our hope that this special year would be a preface to the Church's focus on this very central theme of the Gospels and our faith, which is mercy. This apostolic letter is putting forth ideas that can help us to continue this most successful spiritual event.
To my mind, this is been one of the most successful Holy Years I have ever experienced. I think that the participation at the local level has been just incredible -- we had almost 4,000 groups come to visit the Cathedral over the course of the year to pass through the Holy Door of Mercy and go to confession, and many people in different parishes committed themselves to perform works of mercy. I also know that many people who had been in difficult relationships were also reconciled with their friends or family members as a result of the Holy Year.
For us, one of the highlights of the Holy Year was also to have the heart of St. Padre Pio come to our archdiocese, and many thousands of pilgrims came to venerate that relic. The body of Padre Pio had been in St. Peter's earlier in the Holy Year, underscoring the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation, which was the principal activity of Padre Pio throughout his priesthood.
I think the Holy Year resonated so strongly with people for two reasons. First, because the theme was very well chosen. The theme of mercy was something very concrete for people, with the spiritual and corporal works of mercy seen as the "program for the year," as it were. And secondly, the Holy Father, right from the very beginning, insisted that the primary venue for Holy Year activities be in the local dioceses and parishes. Very often, activities of a Holy Year are very much geared towards Rome. I think that having Holy Doors at all the cathedrals of the world -- along with other special places, such as prisons, cloistered convents and nursing homes -- demonstrated that the Holy Father wanted it to be very, very accessible.
I think, on many levels, these factors made everyone in the Church aware they were in the Year of Mercy. In other Holy Years, I'm not sure that was the case. I think that, at other times, if you told the average Catholic in the pews that we were in the midst of a Holy Year they might say, "Oh really? And what exactly is that?" But this Holy Year was made very present to people: priests preached about it, there were the 24 Hours for the Lord gatherings at different parishes, special pilgrimages, the blessing of Holy Doors, and other special activities.
In all, I think it was just an extraordinary success for the whole Church.