ROME – As the world grapples with the next stage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the breakout of a war that threatens global security, a message of hope is desperately needed, according to the Vatican official organizing the upcoming 2025 jubilee.
“In these years, the world has lived a pandemic, which involved all countries of the world, none excluded. It was an experience that was very painful, because it planted solitude, death, sickness, and it created situations of profound discomfort and suffering,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella told Crux in a phone interview.
At the same time that the pandemic seems to be winding down, “the world now is, again, still, living the fear of war,” he said, noting that there is not only the war involving “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” but “Pope Francis has frequently said the third world war is already happening, but fragmented; it’s happening in different parts of the world.”
“All of these elements have led us to think that the jubilee year of 2025 should be lived in the light of hope, because as the apostle says, we are rooted in hope, our faith has the certainty that Jesus will save us,” Fisichella said.
Fisichella leads the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which has been tasked with organizing the 2025 Jubilee, and which this summer will be merged with other Vatican departments to form a new mega-department for evangelization.
In February, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Fisichella announcing the motto of the 2025 Jubilee as, “Pilgrims of Hope,” saying the jubilee year “can contribute greatly to restoring a climate of hope and trust as a prelude to the renewal and rebirth that we so urgently desire.”
The choice of hope as the theme, similar to Francis’s choice of mercy for his 2015-2016 extraordinary jubilee, is a “balm” for humanity, Fisichella said, saying hope “is not rhetorical; hope for us Christians is concrete, because it has a face, and it is the face of Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God who with his death and resurrection saved the world.”
“So, for us hope is the certainty that the situations of difficulty, of suffering, the most dramatic situations, like death, are overcome by the resurrection,” he said.
Fisichella also spoke about the preparations for the 2025 Jubilee that are already underway, and the behind-the-scene steps involved in organizing a jubilee year.
Below is Crux’s conversation with Archbishop Rino Fisichella:
Crux: Why did you choose this theme of hope for the jubilee of 2025?
Fisichella: Every jubilee has a specific theme. We can recall how in 1950, Pope Pius XII chose the theme of reconstruction, because the jubilee in ’50 came after the great war. In 1975, Pope Paul VI thought of the theme of unity, because the world was divided. There was the Cold War … also inside of the church there was a moment of great division, and Paul VI thought that the jubilee of 1975 could really be lived around the theme of unity. Then, we saw how John Paul II in 2000 wanted to characterize the jubilee, because it was 2000 years since the birth of Christ, so it was a Christological jubilee.
In the same vein, Pope Francis, in the experience of what the world is living – we cannot forget that in these years, the world has lived a pandemic, which involved all countries of the world, none excluded. It was an experience that was very painful, because it planted solitude, death, sickness, and it created situations of profound discomfort and suffering. At the same time, the world now is, again, still, living the fear of war. There is not only the war involving Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; with everything that the west is living right now, Pope Francis has frequently said the third world war is already happening, but fragmented; it’s happening in different parts of the world.
All of these elements have led us to think that the jubilee year of 2025 should be lived in the light of hope, because as the apostle says, we are rooted in hope; our faith has the certainty that Jesus will save us. Hope is the word that we Christians are called to carry into our work of evangelization in today’s world.
So, this is a balm, as Pope Francis likes to say, for the people in today’s world…
Absolutely yes. Hope is not rhetorical, hope for us Christians is concrete, because it has a face, and it is the face of Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God who with his death and resurrection saved the world. So, for us hope is the certainty that the situations of difficulty, of suffering, the most dramatic situations, like death, are overcome by the resurrection. Hope is this: it is to bring consolation, to bring joy, it means sharing with a smile, and it also means, as art has so often depicted it, to look and fix one’s gaze on the future.
What are the steps involved in organizing a jubilee? It’s obviously a lot of work, it takes years, so what are the next steps to take, the next phases in the process?
The pope wrote a very important letter with which he wanted to indicate some themes with which he wants us to organize the next jubilee. The pope specified that the jubilee must be oriented to take charge of the entire teaching and program of these years. So, the pope asks us to set out, not only the motto of the jubilee, which is, “Pilgrims of Hope,” but pilgrims of hope means setting out, but not in an isolated or individualist way. No, setting out together and walking together.
This is the topic we must touch on before the preparations, which is an understanding, an organization done together, looking at 2015. So, the pope is inviting us to collaboration, he is inviting us to listening. This is why for our preparation, in the first place is listening, what comes from the churches, from the suffering of so many people who are living these dramatic moments. All of this, then, also brings us to consider, structurally, some elements and commitments. These commitments will be developed by us through the commissions.
We created four commissions: The first is the pastoral commission, which seeks to elaborate the topics, the needs, for local churches, and to then propose to the entire church a program of preparation for the jubilee. In the letter the pope sent me, the pope says that 2024 must be dedicated to a great year of prayer. So, we must try to understand how to think about these years of preparation.
Then there is a cultural commission, which has the scope of preparing some events to propose, because together with the spiritual dimension, there can also be an enrichment to know the history of the church in Rome and also of our local churches, to know the richness of music, of art, of everything that involves culture of a people and the culture of a country and of a church.
Then there is inevitably an ecumenical commission, of interreligious dialogue, because we cannot forget that the year 2025 will also be 1700 years since the first council that the church organized, which was the Council of Nicaea, the first Christological council, where the first profession of faith was formulated, which was then ratified and amplified by Constantinople and which is that confession of faith which we, every Sunday, profess during the Eucharistic celebration. So, we must also think about how to live this moment, which is placed precisely in the heart of the jubilee of 2025, in an ecumenical way.
Then there is a commission for communication, because as you know, today communication is fundamental. We must listen to experts, how many there are who live in the world of communication to help us make it so that the jubilee is not only understood, but lived in line with the teaching that the pope intends to offer us.
Then finally, there is a technical committee, which obviously has a great responsibility, because it is in charge of welcoming in the best of ways the pilgrims, who will be numerous, in their arrival to Rome.
Pope Francis recently made changes to the curial structure, some of which involve your department. Will these changes have an impact in how the jubilee is organized, or is the work more or less in the hands of the commissions?
This won’t touch the competencies that have already been given to us. The pope already months ago put this department in charge of organizing the jubilee, so it’s inevitable that all competencies of the pontifical council will not pass to the first section of the department of evangelization.
This is the second jubilee you’ve organized. Last time, with the Jubilee of Mercy, there were specific things done, such as the Missionaries of Mercy, allowing all priests to absolve the sin of abortion, etc. Are similar specific gestures or functions being thought of for this one, or will some things, like the Missionaries of Mercy, be reactivated?
To tell the truth, this is the third jubilee I’ve had responsibility for, because in 2000 Pope John Paul II appointed me vice president for the historical theological commission, so I had the task of preparing the various theological contents of the Jubilee of 2000, so we had a responsibility for everything regarding the content, but beyond this, both the Jubilee of 2000 and the Jubilee of 2016 enriched me. Of course, it was an experience I lived which will accompany me to help me realize in a deeper and more coherent way the ordinary Jubilee of 2025.
Certainly, right now we are studying what can be the forms, because also the Jubilee of 2025 must leave concrete signs in the life of the church, but for this, we must listen and we must obviously try to understand what to do in the coming years, what is needed in the coming years to prepare for the jubilee.
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