During the Holy Year of Mercy, the Pope wants to show “the Church’s maternal solicitude” by sending “missionaries of mercy” throughout the world to forgive even the most serious of sins, Archbishop Rino Fisichella has said.
During a news conference at the Vatican on Tuesday, Archbishop Fisichella also unveiled the official prayer, logo, calendar of events and other details of the special the Holy Year of Mercy, which will be celebrated from December 8 2015 until November 20 2016.
The missionaries of mercy will be specially selected priests who have been granted “the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See,” the Pope wrote in Misericordiae Vultus, (The Face of Mercy), the document officially proclaiming the Holy Year.
Archbishop Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, the office organising events for the Holy Year of Mercy, said the priests will be chosen on the basis of their ability to preach well, especially on the theme of mercy, and be “good confessors”, meaning they are able to express God’s love and do not make the confessional, as Pope Francis says, like “a torture chamber”.
The priests will also have to “be patient” and have “an understanding of human fragility,” the archbishop added.
Bishops can recommend to the council priests from their own dioceses to serve as missionaries of mercy, he said, and priests themselves can submit their request to serve.
When a priest volunteers, however, the council will confer with his bishop to make sure he would be “suitable for this ministry” and has the bishop’s approval to serve temporarily as a missionary of mercy, the archbishop explained.
The year-long extraordinary jubilee also will include several individual jubilee days, such as for the Roman Curia, catechists, teenagers and prisoners.
The motto, “Merciful Like the Father,” Archbishop Fisichella said, “serves as an invitation to follow the merciful example of the Father who asks us not to judge or condemn but to forgive and to give love and forgiveness without measure.”
Pope Francis announced in March his intention to proclaim a holy year as a way for the Church to “make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy.”
The archbishop emphasised the importance of living the Holy Year as “a true pilgrimage” with the proper elements of prayer and sacrifice.
“We will ask pilgrims to make a journey on foot, preparing themselves to pass through the Holy Door in a spirit of faith and devotion,” he said.
More than a dozen individual jubilee celebrations will be scheduled in 2016, such as a jubilee for consecrated men and women on February 2 to close the Year of Consecrated Life; a jubilee for the Roman Curia on February 22; a jubilee for those devoted to the spirituality of Divine Mercy on Divine Mercy Sunday on April 3; and separate jubilees for teenagers; for deacons; priests; the sick and disabled; and catechists.
A jubilee for “workers and volunteers of mercy” will be celebrated on Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s feast day (September 5) and a jubilee for prisoners will be celebrated on November 6.
Archbishop Fisichella said the Pope wants the jubilee for inmates to be celebrated not only in prisons, but also with him in St Peter’s Basilica. He said the council is discussing the possibility with government authorities and is not yet sure if it can be done.
The Vatican is asking bishops and priests around the world to conduct “similar symbolic gestures of communion with Pope Francis” and his vision of reaching out to those on the margins.
“As a concrete sign of the Pope’s charitable love,” he said, “effective measures will be taken to meet real needs in the world that will express mercy through tangible assistance.”
At the news conference, the council distributed copies in several languages of the Holy Year prayer and logo, which features Jesus — the Good Shepherd — taking “upon his shoulders the lost soul, demonstrating that it is the love of Christ that brings to completion the mystery of his incarnation culminating in redemption,” the archbishop said.
The image, created by Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik, also shows one of Jesus’ eyes merged with the man’s to show how “Christ sees with the eyes of Adam, and Adam with the eyes of Christ.”
The council has joined with the United Bible Societies to distribute to pilgrims one million free copies of the Gospel of Mark; the texts will be available in seven languages.
Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee:
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
“If you knew the gift of God!”
You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy,
you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.