In Rome or at home, Catholics urged to take part in Year of Mercy

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Whether in Rome or at home,
Catholics will have a variety of ways to take part in the Year of Mercy.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New
Evangelization, the office organizing events for the Holy Year, presented details
about some of the events planned at the Vatican and the services available for
pilgrims.

Pope Francis will use a “very simple” ceremony to
open the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 8, said Archbishop Rino
Fisichella, council president, who spoke at a Vatican news conference Dec. 4.

After reciting verses from the Psalms, the pope will open
the door and lead a procession of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and
laypeople through the door, arriving at the tomb of St. Peter.

That evening a coalition of production companies and
charitable foundations, including the World Bank’s “Connect4Climate”
group, will present “a gift of contemporary public art” to Pope
Francis by illuminating the facade and dome of St. Peter’s with high resolution
images by world-class photographers and filmmakers, according to a coalition
press release.

The images of people and nature were meant to show the
interdependency of creation and “to educate and inspire change about the
climate crisis,” it said.

The pope will also carry out a “symbolic
gesture” related to one of the works of mercy on one Friday of every month
during the Holy Year. He will begin with a “strictly private” visit
Dec. 18 to a shelter run by the Rome diocesan Caritas.

Other details Archbishop Fisichella offered:

— Until the year ends Nov. 20, 2016, every evening in
front of the statue of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Square, groups will take turns
leading the recitation of the rosary.

— In addition to the pope’s Wednesday general audience, he
will hold a special general audience one Saturday a month.

— Special confessionals with wheelchair access will be
available in St. Peter’s Basilica and other Rome churches. Audio, video and
“tactile-book” resources will be available for people with a visual
or hearing impairment.

— Pilgrims who wish to walk through the Holy Door at St.
Peter’s or take part in other major jubilee events in Rome will have to
preregister in order to receive the free tickets. It can be done online at
www.im.va or in person at the official pilgrim information center at Via della
Conciliazione 7, which is along the wide boulevard leading to St. Peter’s.

— Tourists wanting only to visit St. Peter’s Basilica
will be in a separate line from pilgrims who are registered to go through the
Holy Door. Everyone entering the basilica will have to pass through a metal
detector.

— Pilgrims who come to Rome, especially those traveling on
foot, will receive an official “testimonium” from the pilgrim
information center. Organizers warned against “inauthentic”
certificates that may be in circulation.

— Pilgrims should look for the Year of Mercy trademarked
logo as a kind of “seal of approval” that also will guarantee fair
prices for food and lodging at participating businesses.

Archbishop Jose Octavio Ruiz Arenas, secretary of the new
evangelization council, said a pilgrimage to Rome for a Holy Year has always
been a sign of the journey of conversion and renewing one’s faith before the
tomb of St. Peter.

However, despite the large numbers of pilgrims making the
journey over the centuries, the time or expenses connected to a voyage to Rome
also meant “the great majority of church members could not go through the Holy
Door,” he said at the news conference.

Pope Francis has asked that Doors of Mercy be opened Dec.
13 in every cathedral, major church or sanctuary in the world so that people
can experience a pilgrimage near their own homes.

The pope also has “granted all the bishops of the
world the power to give the papal blessing at the holy Mass for the opening of
the Holy Door and for the closure of the door at the end of the Holy
Year,” Archbishop Fisichella said.

More than 800 priests will be appointed by Pope Francis
to be “missionaries of mercy” and will go to different parts of the
world to be “preachers and confessors of mercy,” the archbishop said.

While all Catholic priests have been granted the faculty
of lifting the penalties for the sin of abortion during the Year of Mercy, the
“missionaries of mercy” have been given special authority to lift
even those penalties reserved to the Holy See.

A series of eight Holy Year books on themes as mercy,
confession, the saints and Mary, are available in 10 languages. Ordering information
is at www.im.va or from the U.S. distributor, Our Sunday Visitor at www.osv.com.

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