Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome back to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
Last Saturday I was so pleased to meet up with Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke who was making a private visit to St Walburge’s Shrine church, Preston as he gave talks in both Chester and Southport nearby. The Cardinal is the Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and a good friend of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest and so he celebrated Mass in this beautiful church in the care of the Institute.
The Cardinal and I spent an hour in private conversation and at the conclusion of our time together he very kindly gave me a book ‘Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church’ which has great relevance at this time in between Extraordinary Synod on the Family of last year and the Ordinary Synod to take place in October this year. We pray for the Synod members and our Holy Father that all will receive all the gifts of wisdom and strength they need from the Holy Spirit.
The magnificent St Walburge’s was the host church for our diocesan contribution to Pope Francis’ world-wide Lenten initiative ’24 Hours for the Lord’ inviting churches worldwide to remain open for 24 hours today for confession and Eucharistic adoration. This time of prayer was extremely successful as people – young and old alike – continued to come and pray and confess through the day and night.
In fact, the Holy Father Pope Francis on Friday made quite a surprise announcement as he opened the “24 Hours for the Lord,” in St Peter’s Rome.
During this penitential celebration on the day of the second anniversary of his pontificate, Pope Francis made the major announcement of a jubilee year dedicated to the theme of mercy, beginning on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 2015.
Speaking in his homily at a penitential service in St Peter’s Basilica on Friday evening, the Holy Father said the celebration of this “Jubilee of Mercy,” also to be called an “extraordinary holy year,” will begin with the opening of the holy door of the basilica and conclude on the feast of Christ the King, on 20 November 2016.
Pope Francis said: ”I am convinced that the whole Church will find in this jubilee the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which all of us are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time,” Pope Francis said. “From this moment, we entrust this holy year to the Mother of Mercy, that she might turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey.”
In our Catholic tradition, a year of jubilee is a time of joy, remission or universal pardon of sins. The Vatican release went on to point out that the opening of this “Jubilee of Mercy” will take place on the 50th 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,” the Vatican said in an official statement on their websites. Pope Francis has entrusted the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation with the organization of the year.
The last “ordinary jubilee” year was in 2000, when Pope St. John Paul II held the “Great Jubilee,” which was likewise a celebration of the mercy of God and forgiveness of sins. The most recent extraordinary holy years were those in 1933, proclaimed by Pius XI to celebrate 1,900 years of redemption, and 1983, proclaimed by John Paul II on the occasion of 1,950 years of redemption.
The statement added, “The official and solemn announcement of the holy year will take place with the public proclamation of the Bollain front of the holy door on Divine Mercy Sunday, the feast instituted by St. John Paul II and celebrated on the Sunday after Easter.”
The jubilee tradition has its roots in the Jewish tradition, when a jubilee year was celebrated every 50 years. It was meant to restore equality among all of the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families that had lost property and even their personal freedom.
The official Vatican statement describes a jubilee year as 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 Millennio Adveniente 13).
The Catholic tradition of the holy year began with Pope Boniface VIII, in 1300, who had envisioned a jubilee every century. From 1475 onwards — in order to allow each generation to experience at least one holy year — an ordinary jubilee was to be celebrated every 25 years. An extraordinary jubilee may be announced on the occasion of an event of particular importance.
The Diocese of Lancaster looks forward to taking a full part in the Holy Year of Mercy as no doubt we continue to learn more about its ramifications in the weeks ahead.
Until next week – May God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster