ROME – In his tone-setting document for the upcoming Jubilee of Hope, Pope Francis delved into the meaning of the virtue and issued several appeals he said would help sow greater hope in the world, including amnesty for prisoners and debt forgiveness for developing nations.

He also made several appeals to show hope to populations he said are in the greatest need of it and indicated that ecumenism will be a major theme during the upcoming jubilee year.

The official Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee of Hope, titled, Spes non confundit, or “Hope does not disappoint,” which is taken from chapter five of the biblical book of Romans, was presented during an official May 9 ceremony inside St. Peter’s Basilica, during which excerpts of the bull were read aloud to Pope Francis.

“Everyone knows what it is to hope. In the heart of each person, hope dwells as the desire and expectation of good things to come, despite our not knowing what the future may bring,” and the insecurities, anxieties and doubts that can come with the unknown, he said.

Christian hope “does not deceive or disappoint because it is grounded in the certainty that nothing and no one may ever separate us from God’s love,” he said, saying hope gives people the ability to continue going forward, even amid difficulties.

“For all of us, may the Jubilee be an opportunity to be renewed in hope. God’s word helps us find reasons for that hope,” he said.

Pope Francis in 2022 announced “Pilgrims of Hope” as the official theme for the 2025 ordinary jubilee, also called a “Holy Year.”

The first-ever Holy Year was established by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300 and was celebrated every 100 years, however, later, following biblical tradition, it was observed every 50 years. 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 their lifetime.

Intended to be a time of conversion and increased emphasis on God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins, jubilees are characterized by the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica, and in each of the other four papal basilicas in Rome: Saint John Lateran, Saint Mary Major, and Saint Paul Outside the Wall.

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.

Pope Francis in the bull for the 2025 jubilee said it will be officially inaugurated when he opens the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica on Dec. 24, 2024. On Sunday, Dec. 29, he will open the Holy Door in Saint John Lateran, which in November will mark the 1700th anniversary of its dedication.

On Jan. 1, 2025, the Holy Door of Saint Mary Major will be opened, and on Sunday Jan. 5, 2025, the Holy Door of the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls will be opened.

Francis decreed that on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2024, diocesan bishops in every cathedral and co-cathedral throughout the world “are to celebrate Holy Mass as the solemn opening of the Jubilee Year,” and that in co-cathedrals, the bishop can be replaced “by a suitably designated delegate.”

The jubilee will conclude for local churches on Sunday, Dec. 28, 2025, the date on which the Holy Doors in all papal basilicas except for Saint Peter’s will close.

Pope Francis himself will formally conclude the Jubilee of Hope with the closing of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 6, 2026, the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

“During the Holy Year, may the light of Christian hope illumine every man and woman, as a message of God’s love addressed to all! And may the Church bear faithful witness to this message in every part of the world!” he said in the bull.

Francis also asked that during the jubilee, “signs of hope” be given to those most in need, specifically those living amid war and violent conflict.

Hope can be found in the desire for peace amid “the tragedy of war,” he said, praying that the jubilee would be a reminder “that those who are peacemakers will be called ‘children of God.’”

“The need for peace challenges us all, and demands that concrete steps be taken,” he said, asking that international diplomacy “be tireless in its commitment to seek, with courage and creativity, every opportunity to undertake negotiations aimed at a lasting peace.”

He also lamented falling birthrates around the world, which he said is related to various social problems and concerns, including “social models whose agenda is dictated by the quest for profit rather than concern for relationships.”

“In certain quarters, the tendency ‘to blame population growth, instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the [real] issues,’” he said, saying “openness to life and responsible parenthood” is the model God chose for men and women who get married.

Christians, he said, ought to be “at the forefront in pointing out the need for a social covenant to support and foster hope, one that is inclusive and not ideological, working for a future filled with the laughter of babies and children, in order to fill the empty cradles in so many parts of our world.”

Pope Francis also proposed that for the jubilee, governments around the world would “undertake initiatives aimed at restoring hope” by granting forms of amnesty or pardon for prisoners and investing in rehabilitation programs in detention facilities.

Christians, and especially pastors, throughout the world ought to be the ones demanding “dignified conditions for those in prison, respect for their human rights and above all the abolition of the death penalty,” which he said is a practice “at odds with Christian faith and one that eliminates all hope of forgiveness and rehabilitation.”

In this spirit, the pope said that he will open a Holy Door in a prison during the jubilee, “as a sign inviting prisoners to look to the future with hope and a renewed sense of confidence.”

Francis also asked that signs of hope be given to the sick, to young people struggling to find hope in the future, to migrants, and to the elderly and the poor.

He repeated his frequent criticism of spending vast sums on the arms trade, while seeing the poor as a burden and a problem to be solved, saying, “Let us not forget: the poor are almost always the victims, not the ones to blame.”

As the jubilee approaches, he also called for an equal distribution of the earth’s resources, insisting that “the goods of the earth are not destined for a privileged few, but for everyone.”

“The rich must be generous and not avert their eyes from the faces of their brothers and sisters in need,” he said, and asked developed nations to forgive the debts of countries that will never be able to repay it, saying, “More than a question of generosity, this is a matter of justice.”

In a nod to other Christian churches, the pope noted that the 2025 jubilee will coincide with 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea, which he said was called in order to “preserve the Church’s unity.”

He noted that Easter, while still celebrated on different days in the Latin and eastern churches, will “providentially” fall on the same day during the jubilee, praying that this would “serve as an appeal to all Christians, East and West, to take a decisive step forward towards unity around a common date for Easter.”

“We do well to remind ourselves that many people, unaware of the controversies of the past, fail to understand how divisions in this regard can continue to exist.

Francis reflected on the reasons believers have to hope, saying the greatest of all is the death and resurrection of Jesus, who opened the doors of eternal life.

The most convincing testimony of hope after death are the martyrs, including martyrs from other Christian denominations, he said, adding, “I greatly hope that the Jubilee will also include ecumenical celebrations as a way of highlighting the richness of the testimony of these martyrs.”

Pope Francis reflected on the afterlife and on the final judgement, which described as a time of “purification” to prepare souls for full communion with God, stressing the importance of prayer and going to Confession as a means of obtaining God’s mercy and forgiveness for oneself, and those who have already died.

To this end, he pointed to the church’s tradition of granting indulgences, the full remission of the temporal consequences of a person’s sins after they have been absolved, which is a special feature of jubilee years.

Calling indulgences “a way of discovering the unlimited nature of God’s mercy,” Francis the Vatican’ Apostolic Penitentiary will issue norms for how to obtain an indulgence and make it “spiritually fruitful” during the jubilee.

He pointed to the Missionaries of Mercy, a group of priests instituted during the 2015-2016 extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy who volunteered or were selected by their bishops or religious superiors and given a special mandate to be instruments of God’s mercy throughout the world.

Given the authority to forgive sins normally reserved to the Vatican, such as an attempt on the life of the pope or a priest who violates the seal of confession, the Missionaries of Mercy often carry out their mandate through activities such as hearing confessions and preaching at retreats.

During the Jubilee of Hope, Pope Francis asked that the Missionaries of Mercy “exercise their ministry by reviving hope and offering forgiveness whenever a sinner comes to them with an open heart and a penitent spirit.”

He urged bishops “to take advantage of their precious ministry, especially by sending them wherever hope is sorely tested,” such as to prisons, hospitals, “and places where people’s dignity is violated, poverty abounds and social decay is prevalent.”

“In this Jubilee Year, may no one be deprived of the opportunity to receive God’s forgiveness and consolation,” he said.

Francis also pointed to the Virgin Mary as a model of hope and noted that the Marian Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City will celebrate fifth centenary of first apparition in 2031. He urged believers to visit Marian shrines during the jubilee, calling them “privileged spaces for the rebirth of hope.”

He voiced hope that the jubilee would “help us to recover the confident trust that we require, in the Church and in society, in our interpersonal relationships, in international relations, and in our task of promoting the dignity of all persons and respect for God’s gift of creation.”

“Let us even now be drawn to this hope! Through our witness, may hope spread to all those who anxiously seek it,” he said, praying that “the power of hope fill our days, as we await with confidence the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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