The beginning of the Jubilee Year is always solemnly marked by the opening of a Holy Door by the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. However, for this Jubilee of Mercy Pope Francis also wanted a Door of Mercy in each diocese so that everyone throughout the world may be able to celebrate the Jubilee.
In the Diocese of Westminster there will be a Holy Door at the cathedral and there are also Holy Doors at: Brook Green; the Italian Church, Clerkenwell; Enfield; Haverstock Hill; Hounslow; Kingsland; Lincoln’s Inn Fields; Marylebone; Soho Square; Stanmore; Waltham Cross; Our Lady’s, Welwyn Garden City; Our Lady of Willesden.
The tradition of a holy door during a jubilee dates back to the fifteenth century: according to the description given in 1450 by a certain Giovanni Rucellai of Viterbo, it was Pope Martin V who in 1423, at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, opened the Holy Door for the first time in the history of the Jubilee. His successors, especially Pope Alexander VI in 1499, maintained this tradition and extended it to the four major Basilicas, namely, in addition to Saint John Lateran, the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, Saint Mary Major and Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
In a way, until 1975, the rite emphasized the wall that prevented access, in normal times, to the Holy Door. In 1975, the ritual of closing and opening of the Holy Door was changed to better highlight the symbol of the door. A door in everyday life has several functions, all repeated by the symbol of the Holy Door:
- It marks the separation between inside and outside, between sin and the order of grace (Mi 7:18-19);
- It permits entry to a new place, in showing mercy and not condemnation (Mt 9:13);
- It provides protection, it provides salvation (Jn 10:7).
Jesus said: “I am the gate” (Jn 10:7). There is only one way that opens wide the entrance into the life of communion with God: this is Jesus, the one and absolute way to salvation. To him alone can the words of the Psalmist be applied in full truth: “This is the Lord’s own gate: where the just may enter” (Ps 117:20).
To pass through the door from the outside is to pass from this world into the presence of God. Moreover, to pass through the door is to confess with firm conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son Of God, the Lord, and the Saviour who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation. With great courage, a person freely decides to cross the threshold leaving behind the kingdom of this world so as to enter the new life of grace of the Kingdom of God.
When the door opens, the obstacles of passage to our Lord are removed. During the Holy Year, we hope and pray that the obstacles of personal weakness, temptation, and sin will be removed so that we will have a holy union with our Lord.
Pope Francis wishes that everyone, regardless of their state, be able to make a pilgrimage through a Holy Door and receive the Jubilee Indulgence.
Three conditions will enable us to be granted the Jubilee Indulgence:
- A brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or In the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion;
- Participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy;
- The accompaniment of these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for the Pope and for the intentlons that the Pope bears in his heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world.
Finally, significance is placed on the importance of spiritual and corporal works of mercy, adding that ‘each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence’.