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ROME – Pope Francis announced in a letter Friday that hope will be the central theme for the upcoming 2025 Jubilee Year, voicing his desire for the year to foster a greater sense of global brotherhood and solidarity with the poor, as well as care for the environment.
After two years marked by the coronavirus pandemic and the crisis left in its wake, “We must fan the flame of hope that has been given us and help everyone to gain new strength and certainty by looking to the future with an open spirit, a trusting heart and far-sighted vision,” the pope said in his letter.
The coming Jubilee “can contribute greatly to restoring a climate of hope and trust as a prelude to the renewal and rebirth that we so urgently desire,” he said. “That is why I have chosen as the motto of the Jubilee, ‘Pilgrims of Hope.’”
Dated Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the letter was addressed to Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is tasked with organizing the Jubilee.
The first-ever “Holy Year” was instituted by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300 and was initially celebrated every 100 years. Then, following biblical tradition, it was marked every 50 years, and it was finally decided by Pope Paul II in 1490 to observe the jubilee year every 25 years, so that each person could experience one in his or her lifetime.
Jubilees, designed to be a time of conversion and increased emphasis on God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins, are marked by the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Holy Doors, present in each of the four papal basilicas in Rome, are destination points for pilgrims who travel to Rome during the Jubilee and who pass through seeking special graces and outpourings of God’s mercy.
The last Ordinary Jubilee was the Great Jubilee of 2000, celebrated by Pope John Paul II.
A new custom of calling “extraordinary” jubilees, meaning outside of the 25-year rotation, and which can last a few days to a few months, began in the 16th century. There have only been a handful of extraordinary jubilees since, the latest being the 2015-2016 Jubilee of Mercy called by Pope Francis.
The Holy Year of 2025 will be the 27th ordinary jubilee year of the Catholic Church.
“As the first twenty-five years of the new century draw to a close, we are called to enter into a season of preparation that can enable the Christian people to experience the Holy Year in all its pastoral richness,” Pope Francis said.
This will only happen, he said, “if we are capable of recovering a sense of universal fraternity and refuse to turn a blind eye to the tragedy of rampant poverty that prevents millions of men, women, young people and children from living in a manner worthy of our human dignity,” especially migrants and refugees forced to flee their homes.
“May the voices of the poor be heard throughout this time of preparation for the Jubilee, which is meant to restore access to the fruits of the earth to everyone,” the pope said.
“All of us are pilgrims on this earth,” he said, and urged faithful to make a special effort to care for creation during the Jubilee, saying, “may we never fail, in the course of our sojourn, to contemplate the beauty of creation and care for our common home.”
“Growing numbers of men and women, including many young people and children, have come to realize that care for creation is an essential expression of our faith in God and our obedience to his will,” he said.
Pope Francis urged Fisichella to coordinate with local churches in both the Latin and Eastern rites in a spirit of synodality in keeping with the current Synod of Bishops dedicated to the topic, and “in order to be ever more fully a sign and instrument of unity in harmonious diversity.”
He stressed the importance of the “responsible participation” from everyone, pointing to the four apostolic constitutions of the Second Vatican Council and the major papal documents of recent decades as resources.
These documents, he said, “will continue to provide direction and guidance to God’s holy people, so that it can press forward in its mission of bringing the joyful proclamation of the Gospel to everyone.”
Francis said a Bull of Indiction outlining the guidelines for the celebration of the Jubilee of 2025 will be issued “in due course.”
In the lead-up, the pope asked that the year 2024 be devoted to prayer, “above all else, to renew our desire to be in the presence of the Lord, to listen to him and to adore him.”
With preparations for the 2025 Jubilee just getting underway, there are few details regarding the specifics of how the holy year will be observed. However, Pope Francis implemented several novelties for his extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that could also be featured as part of the 2025 event.
Among other things, he allowed dioceses and shrines to designate holy doors that pilgrims could pass through without having to travel to Rome and allowed all priests to absolve the sin of abortion, which could previously only be absolved with permission from the local bishop.
Francis also allowed priests in the schismatic Society of Pope Pius X to validly hear confessions in the Catholic Church, and he widened indulgences – the full remission of the temporal consequences of a person’s sins after they have been absolved – available to the faithful during the holy year.
He also instituted the Missionaries of Mercy, a ministry in which the priests who assume the role are able to freely travel around hearing confessions, giving talks, and offering special guidance related to the topic of God’s mercy.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen