Pope’s Jubilee year on theme of mercy to begin Tuesday

December 6, 2015 9:14 pm

– Global Holy Doors –

But the pilgrimage is no longer a required rite. In a Francis innovation, believers will have access to Holy Doors around the world — including in the Central African Republic capital Bangui, where the pope himself opened a door last month.

The pope on Sunday said he hoped the year would be a chance to repair divisions between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians dating to the 11th century.

Speaking on the 50-year anniversary of a joint declaration by then Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras expressing regret for many of the past actions that led up to the Great Schism between the Western and Eastern rites, he said he hoped for “new steps in mutual forgiveness”.

Jubilee years have their roots in an Old Testament tradition of freeing slaves and prisoners once every 50 years.

The concept died out in Judaism with the dispersal of Jews around the world but was relaunched in a Catholic format by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300 with pilgrimages to Rome at its heart.

They have been held variously at intervals of 25, 33 (Christ’s age when he was crucified) and 50 years with occasional extraordinary ones slotted in between. The last Jubilee was in 2000 and was called by John Paul II to mark the millennium.

By attracting hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Rome in search of indulgences they were often willing to pay for, Jubilee years became huge money-spinners for the early modern Church, contributing to the theological turmoil that led to the establishment of rival Protestant churches in much of northern Europe.

Today, Rome’s hotel-keepers and taxi drivers are hoping for a boon, with even some modest boarding houses run by religious orders reported to have jacked up their room rates to cash in on the increased demand for bed space.

Nevertheless, Bernabo Bocca, the head of the hotel industry association Federalberghi told the Italian daily La Stampa that hotel occupancy was down 20 percent from this time last year.

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