What’s an (extraordinary) Jubilee Year? (Taken from cruxnow.com)
Also called Holy Years, jubilees normally occur every 25 years. They feature special celebrations and pilgrimages, calls for conversion and repentance, and the offer of special opportunities to experience God’s grace through the sacraments, especially confession.
Extraordinary holy years, such as the Holy Year of Mercy, are less frequent but offer the same opportunities. The last extraordinary jubilee was called by St. John Paul II in 1983 to mark the 1,950 years after the death of Jesus. John Paul also led the last holy year, known as the “Great Jubilee,” in 2000.
The Year of Mercy called for by Francis is the third “extraordinary” jubilee since the tradition began 700 years ago.
Why a Jubilee of Mercy?
The year was unexpectedly announced by Pope Francis during a penitential service at St. Peter’s Basilica on March 12. Beginning on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8, it will end on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 20, 2016. Its motto is, “Compassionate like the Father.”
“Let us not forget that God forgives and God forgives always,” Francis said when announcing the year. “Let us never tire of asking for forgiveness.”
Having already described his papacy as a “kairos” of mercy, a New Testament term meaning a privileged moment in God’s plan of salvation, Francis said the time is ripe for the message of mercy.
“I am convinced that the whole Church — which has much need to receive mercy, because we are sinners — will find in this jubilee the joy to rediscover and render fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time,” the pope said.
Mercy beyond the Holy Doors
At the request of Pope Francis, during the jubilee every priest in the world will be able to absolve the sin of abortion, something St. John Paul II also allowed during the extraordinary jubilee of 1983.
In the United States, virtually every priest already has this authority, granted by local bishops, but that is not the case in many countries.
In the same decree, Francis also said that during the jubilee year, any Catholic who confesses to a priest of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, a group that split with Rome after Vatican II, will be considered validly absolved.
Tuesday will also mark the day dioceses around the world are to begin to implement a reform in the process of marriage annulments approved by Francis last August. An annulment is a finding by a Church court that a union between a man and a woman, even if ratified with a Church wedding, was not a real marriage because it didn’t meet one of the tests for validity, such as informed consent.
The new process, designed to make the practice simpler while maintaining Catholicism’s traditional ban on divorce, reduces the numbers of courts and judges needed, drops the automatic appeals, and makes the process free in countries where there was a fee.
Official website for the Jubilee Year of Mercy
Jubilee Year of Mercy resources from the USCCB