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What is a jubilee year?
The practice of a jubilee year has ancient roots in the Jewish tradition and evidence of it can be found in the Old Testament (for example, see Leviticus 25).  The jubilee year was called every fifty years and was a time for forgiveness.  It stood as a reminder of God’s providence and mercy.  The dedication of a year for this emphasis provided the community with a time to come back into right relationship with one another and with God.  As the practice of the jubilee year was adopted into the Catholic Church, these themes of mercy, forgiveness and solidarity continued.

How is this jubilee different from other jubilee years?
The Jubilee of Mercy that Pope Francis has called, from 8 Dec 2015 to 20 Nov 2016, is an Extraordinary Jubilee.  This designation as an extraordinary jubilee sets it apart from the ordinary cycle of jubilees, or holy years, which are called every 25 years in the Catholic Church.  By calling for a holy year outside of the normal cycle, a particular event or theme is emphasised.  For example, Pope Francis called this particular Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy to direct our attention and actions “on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s actions in our lives … a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective” (MV, 3).

Why a Jubilee of Mercy now?
Pope Francis himself addressed this question in his homily for First Vespers for Divine Mercy Sunday 2015:

Here then is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy.  It is the favourable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.  May the Mother of God open our eyes, so that we may comprehend the task to which we have been called; and may she obtain for us the grace to experience this Jubilee of Mercy as faithful and fruitful witnesses of Christ.

What is the Jubilee of Mercy?
In the Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae vultus. . . Pope Francis declared that the Jubilee of Mercy will begin on 8 December  2015 (the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and conclude on 20 November  2016 (the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe). December 8, 2015 also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, a Council that sought to bring the love of God to the modern world. Similarly, the Holy Father strongly desires this Jubilee celebration of mercy to be lived out in the daily lives of the faithful, and all who turn to God for compassionate love and mercy.

How do we live out the Jubilee of Mercy in our daily lives?
In Misericordiae vultus, Pope Francis emphasises the need for the Church and all her members to live out the loving mercy that God has for us. Our response to God’s loving mercy towards us is to act in that same way to all those we meet. The Holy Father reminds us that “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love” (MV, 10. . . ). As members of the Body and Christ, our lives should reflect this witness of mercy to those we meet on a daily basis.

What are the Holy Doors?
One of the central components of the Jubilee of Mercy is that the Holy Doors throughout the world will be opened during this Jubilee Year.  When they are opened at the beginning of the year, “the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope” (MV, 3).  Since each diocese will have the opportunity to open a Door of Mercy in its diocese, all members of the faithful will have opportunity to make a pilgrimage to their local Holy Door during the Jubilee.  This pilgrimage is to be a journey of walking closer with God and discovering “moment[s] of grace and spiritual renewal” (MV, 3).  These doors are symbols of God’s mercy, open to welcome everyone into the compassion of God’s love that Christ proclaimed.

In the archdiocese Archbishop John Wong launched the Year of Mercy (YOM) on 8 Dec 2015 at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Kota Kinabalu.  There are four Doors of Mercy designated:

    • Sacred Heart Cathedral Kota Kinabalu (opened on 12 Dec 2015)

– renew one’s baprismal vows in front of altar
– pray the consecration to the Sacred Heart at the Sacred Heart Shrine (left side altar)
– pray the memorare at the Perpetual Help Shrine (right side altar)
– pray for the souls of Bishop Simon Fung and Fr Valentine Weber at their tombs near the chapel
– make the stations of the cross at the Centenary Monuments
– pray the rosary at the grotto
– finally, spend a few moments of silent adoration a the Blessed Sacrament Chapel

    • Holy Rosary Limbahau (opened on 13 Dec 2015)

– pray the rosary at the grotto
– pray for the souls of Fr Bernard Kurz, Fr Aloysius Goossens, Fr Augustine Amandus and other deceased missionaries at the Memorial Site
– spend a few moments of silent adoration at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel

    • St Peter Kudat (opened on 13 Dec 2015)

– make the way of the cross on the Marian Hill
– pray the rosary at the grotto
– pray for the soul of Fr Peter de Wit at the De Wit Memorial Hall
– spend a few moments of silent adoration at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel

    • St Peter Claver Ranau (opened on 13 Dec 2015)

– renew baptismal vows at the baptismal font
– way of the cross outdoors
– spend a few moments of silent adoration at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel

Jubilee Year Indulgence
A plenary indulgence is the complete remission of all temporal punishment due to sin.  Like all previous Jubilees, the Jubilee Year of Mercy features a very special plenary indulgence.

I wish hat the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed. – Pope Francis, Letter to Abp Rino Fisichella, 1 Sept 2015

There have been many Jubilee Years – 26 ordinary Jubilees and three extraordinary – and each has featured a special plenary indulgence.  This time around, Pope Francis is seeking to make the indulgence as widely available as possible.  In the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, a Holy Door is to be opened in every cathedral around the world.

Even though we can only obtain one plenary indulgence a day, if you perform the required actions for other plenary indulgences on the same day, you can still obtain multiple partial indulgences.

To receive the Jubilee Year indulgence, you must fulfill the usual conditions, (specified below) and perform the indulgenced act: passing through a designated Holy Door during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy (between 8 Dec 2015, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and 20 Nov 2016, Solemnity of Christ the King) or performing one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy.

As for the sick and the elderly, the Holy Father says, “For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of  closeness to the Lord who in the mystery of his Passion, Death and Resurrection indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and loneliness.  Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, 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 Induldgence.”

You may receive the plenary indulgence for yourself, or offer it for a soul in purgatory.  It cannot be transferred to another living person.

To receive a plenary indulgence
Below are the normal conditions for receiving a plenary indulgence:

  • It is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed.
  • A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day.  In order to obtain it, the faithful must, in addition to being in the state of grace,
    – have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;
    – have sacramentally confessed their sins;
    – receive Holy Communion (it is better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence, only Holy Communion is
    required); and
    – pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

It is appropriate but not necessary that the sacramental confession, holy communion and prayer for the pope’s intentions take place on the same day that the indulgenced work is performed.  It is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be carried out within 20 days before or after the indulgenced act.  Prayer for the pope’s intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be are suggested.  One sacramental confession suffices for several plenary indulgences but a separate holy communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.

For the sake of those legitimately impeded, confessors can commute both the work prescribed and the conditions required (except obviously the detachment from even venial sin).  Indulgences can always be applied either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, but they cannot be applied to other persons living on earth. (Adapted from the decree on the plenary indulgence for the 2000 Jubilee Year).

What is a pilgrimage?
A pilgrimage is a journey a pilgrim makes to a sacred place for the purpose of venerating it or to ask for heavenly aid, and ultimately, to come to know God better.  Christian pilgrimages were first made to sites connected with the brith, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Shortly after, pilgrimages started being made to Rome and other sites associated with the Apostles, saints and martyrs, as well as places where there had been apparitions of the Virgin Mary.  In the past, pilgrims would leave their homes, families and comforts to walk for hundreds of miles with nothing but what they could carry on their backs.  Just like pilgrims of old, modern pilgrims also leave homes, families and comforts in order to journey to sacred places.

Along the journey, there mare many sacrifices involved.  There is suffering, hunger, pain, exhaustion, extreme weather conditions, crowds, etc.  All of these involve self-denial in order to obtain the ultimate goal and reach the final destination.  Suffering is not a punishment that one receives in direct proportion to one’s own sins but is the result of original sin and is part of the universal human experience, something we all experience in some form.  Jesus Christ embraced his cross of suffering and death and so, too, should we embrace these sufferings with joy.

While journeying,  pilgrims may notice that although they are living entirely in the present, it is not the present that matters; what matters is the distant goal.  The experience one has on a pilgrimage can be fantastic and deeply meaningful, or it can be completely meaningless.  It is entirely up to the pilgrim.  Extra graces are given to pilgrims who open their hearts to God.  Pilgrims are also called to be witnesses for Christ on their journey.  As Christians, pilgrims are ambassadors for Christ and the nature of their citizenship.

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