On the day of the second anniversary of his pontificate, Pope Francis made the major announcement of a jubilee year dedicated to the theme of mercy, beginning on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 9th 2015.
Speaking to pilgrims at a penitential liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica the Holy Father said the celebration of this “Jubilee of Mercy”, also called an “extraordinary holy year”, will commence with the opening of the holy door of the basilica and conclude on the feast of Christ the King, November 20th 2016.
In Catholic tradition, a year of jubilee is a time of joy, remission or universal pardon. The Vatican pointed out that the opening of this “Jubilee of Mercy” will take place on the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965.
The last “ordinary jubilee” year was in 2000, when Pope St. John Paul II held the “Great Jubilee”, which was likewise a celebration of the mercy of God and the forgiveness of sins. The most recent extraordinary holy years were those in 1933, proclaimed by Pius XI to celebrate 1,900 years of redemption, and 1983, proclaimed by John Paul II on the occasion of 1,950 years of redemption.
The jubilee tradition has its roots in Judaism, when a jubilee year was celebrated every 50 years. It was meant to restore equality among all the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families that had lost property and even their personal freedom.
The Vatican statement said a jubilee year was also a reminder to the rich that a time would come when their Israelite slaves would once again become their equals and would be able to reclaim their rights. “Justice, according to the Law of Israel, consisted above all in the protection of the weak” (St. John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente 13)
An extraordinary jubilee may be announced on the occasion of an event of particular importance. There have been 26 such “ordinary” celebrations, while the custom of calling extraordinary jubilees dates back to the 16th century.
The Catholic jubilee has added spiritual significance to the Hebrew jubilee, comprising a general pardon, an indulgence open to all and the possibility to renew one’s relationship with God and neighbour.
Mercy has been a central theme of Pope Francis’ pontificate, in his first Angelus after his election, Francis said feeling mercy “changes everything”.
“This is the best thing we can feel: It changes the world,” he said. “A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father, who is so patient.”
In September 2015, Pope Francis of the Catholic Church, Bishop of Rome and Sovereign of the Vatican City State and leader of the Holy See will be visiting the United States of America for a five-day trip. On Wednesday, 23rd September 2015 the Pope will visit the White House. This will mark only the third time a pontiff has visited the White House. According to White House press secretary Josh Earnest the two leaders would discuss a broad range of issues including poverty, the environment, religious freedom and immigration. On Thursday, 24th September 2015 the Pope will address a Joint Meeting of Congress (a Joint Meeting of Congress, is the preferred method of receiving addresses from foreign leaders and dignitaries). This will be the first leader of the Holy See to address a joint meeting of Congress. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio said “It will be a historic visit” especially when the Pope has taken positions on some issues that clash with the views of Republicans who now control the House and Senate including immigration and global financial system’s trickle-down-economic theories and an ‘economy of exclusion’, dangers of fracking and environmental devastation. On Friday, 25th September 2015 at 9am the Pope will address the 70th Regular Session of the UN General Assembly and will focus on sustainable living, eradicating poverty and calling upon world leaders to address climate change. Significantly at 11am on 25th September 2015 the UN Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda will open. On the 26th September 2015 the Pope will visit Philadelphia to participate in the closing events of the Eighth World Meeting of Families. These events include the Festival of Families, an intercultural celebration of family life around the world. On Sunday the 27th September 2015 the Pope will hold Papal mass.
The Holy See is viewed as analogous to a sovereign state, having a centralized government called the Roman Curia and while not fulfilling the long-established criteria in international law of statehood, has diplomatic relations with 180 states worldwide. Holy See participates as an observer in AU (African Union), Arab League, Council of Europe, OAS (Organization of American States), IOM (International Organization for Migration), and in the United Nations and its agencies FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), ILO (International Labour Organization), UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), UN-HABITAT (United Nations Human Settlements Programme), UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), UNWTO (World Tourism Organization), WFP (World Food Programme), WHO (World Health Organization), WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization). It participates as a guest in NAM (Non-Aligned Movement), and is a full member in IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).
The Holy See is not a member of the United Nations. However, it is a permanent observer state. In that capacity, it has the right to attend all sessions of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, and the United Nations Economic and Social Council to observe their work. Accordingly, the Holy See has established permanent observer missions in New York and Geneva (Switzerland) and has been able to influence the decisions and recommendations of the United Nations. As a matter of diplomatic courtesy, since 1964, the Holy See was also allowed to make formal policy statements in the General Assembly. Since 2004 the Holy See has the right to participate in the general debate of the General Assembly and to intervene in the discussion of any issue inscribed in the agenda of that assembly as well as make proposals and policy statements of ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council) as well as make statements in public meetings of the UNSC (United Nations Security Council). Popes Paul VI (in 1965), John Paul II (in 1979 and in 1995) and Benedict XVI (in 2008) in were invited to address the General Assembly.