The Pope presided at the first vespers of the second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday – in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5.30 p.m. yesterday, Saturday 11 April. The celebration included the consignment and reading of the official Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, to begin on 8 December 2015 and to close on 16 November 2016.
The Holy Father, accompanied by the cardinals, transferred to the entrance of the Vatican Basilica, and by the side of the Holy Door, he presented the Bull of Indiction to the four cardinal archpriests of the papal basilicas of Rome: St. Peter in the Vatican, St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside-the-Walls and St. Mary Major. As an expression of his desire that the Jubilee be celebrated both in Rome and throughout the world, the Pope also handed a copy of the Bull to the prefects of the Congregations for Bishops, for Evangelization of Peoples, and for the Oriental Churches, and thus symbolically to bishops worldwide. A copy of the document was received by Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai on behalf of all the East, and by Archbishop Bartolome Adoukounou for the African continent. Msgr. Khaled Ayad Bishay of the Patriarchal Church of Alexandria of the Copts received the copy destined for the Oriental Churches.
The Regent of the Papal Household, Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, apostolic protonotary, read a number of extracts from the official document convoking the extraordinary Holy Year, in the presence of the Pope. The Holy Father then went on to preside at first vespers in the Vatican Basilica, and pronounced the following homily.
“The greeting of the Risen Christ to His disciples on the evening of Easter, ‘Peace be with you!’, continues to resound in us all. Peace, especially during this Easter season, remains the desire of so many people who suffer unprecedented violence of discrimination and death simply because they bear the name ‘Christian’. Our prayer is all the more intense and becomes a cry for help to the Father, Who is rich in mercy, that He may sustain the faith of our many brothers and sisters who are in pain. At the same time, we ask for the grace of the conversion of our own hearts so as to move from indifference to compassion.
“St. Paul reminds us that we have been saved through the mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He is the Reconciler, Who is alive in our midst offering the way to reconciliation with God and with each other. The Apostle recalls that, notwithstanding the difficulties and the sufferings of life, the hope of salvation which Christ has sown in our hearts nonetheless continues to grow. The mercy of God is poured out upon us, making us just and giving us peace.
“Many question in their hearts: why a Jubilee of Mercy today? Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness. This is not the time to be distracted; on the contrary, we need to be vigilant and to reawaken in ourselves the capacity to see what is essential. This is a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy.
“For this reason, the Holy Year must keep alive the desire to know how to welcome the numerous signs of the tenderness which God offers to the whole world and, above all, to those who suffer, who are alone and abandoned, without hope of being pardoned or feeling the Father’s love. A Holy Year to experience strongly within ourselves the joy of having been found by Jesus, the Good Shepherd Who has come in search of us because we were lost. A Jubilee to receive the warmth of His love when He bears us upon his shoulders and brings us back to the Father’s house. A year in which to be touched by the Lord Jesus and to be transformed by His mercy, so that we may become witnesses to mercy. Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.
“May the Mother of God open our eyes, so that we may comprehend the task to which we have been called; and may she obtain for us the grace to experience this Jubilee of Mercy as faithful and fruitful witnesses of Christ”.