The following is a summary of the Papal Bull “Misericordiae Vultus”, by which Pope Francis convoked the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
The Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is composed of 25 numbered sections. Pope Francis has described the most salient features of mercy, focusing primarily on the theme of the light of Christ’s face. Mercy is not an abstract word, but rather a face to recognize, contemplate and serve. The Bull is developed in a Trinitary fashion (Nos. 6-9) and extends to a description of the Church as a credible sign of mercy: “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life” (No.10).
Pope Francis indicates the salient phases of the Jubilee. The opening coincides with the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Vatican II Ecumenical Council: “The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way” (No. 4). The conclusion will take place “with the liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King on 20 November 2016. On that day, as we seal the Holy Door, we shall be filled, above all, with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace. We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future.” (no.5).
A special feature of this Holy Year is the fact that it will be celebrated not only in Rome, but also in all the other dioceses of the world. The Holy Door will be opened by the Pope at St. Peter’s on 8 December, and on the following Sunday in all the Churches of the world. Another novelty is that the Pope will grant the possibility of opening the Holy Door also in Sanctuaries, where many pilgrims will go in order to pray.
Pope Francis resumes the teaching of St. John XXIII, who spoke of the “medicine of Mercy”, and of Paul VI who identified the spirituality of Vatican II with that of the Samaritan. The Bull explains, furthermore, various salient aspects of the Jubilee: firstly, the motto, “Merciful like the Father”, then the meaning of pilgrimage and above all the need for forgiveness. The theme that is particularly close to the Pope’s heart is found in section No. 15: the works of corporal and spiritual mercy are to be resumed in order to “reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy”. A further indication is offered by Lent, with the sending out of the “Missionaries of Mercy” (No. 18), a new and original initiative by which the Pope intends to emphasize his pastoral care in a more concrete way. In paragraphs 20 and 21 the Pope considers the theme of the relationship between justice and mercy, showing that he does not stop at a legalistic view, but rather aims at a path that leads to merciful love.
Paragraph 19 is a powerful appeal against organized violence and against those who are “advocates and accomplices” of corruption. The Pope uses strong words to denounce this “festering wound”, and insists that during this Holy Year there must be true conversion: “This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched! When confronted with evil deeds, even in the face of serious crimes, it is the time to listen to the cry of innocent people who are deprived of their property, their dignity, their feelings, and even their very lives. To stick to the way of evil will only leave one deluded and sad. True life is something entirely different. God never tires of reaching out to us. He is always ready to listen, as I am too, along with my brother bishops and priests. All one needs to do is to accept the invitation to conversion and submit oneself to justice during this special time of mercy offered by the Church” (No. 19).
The granting of indulgences as a traditional theme of the Jubilee year is expressed in section No. 22. A final original aspect is offered by Pope Francis with regard to mercy as a theme shared also by Jews and Muslims: “I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with these religions and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination” (No. 23).
The Pope’s wish is that this Year, experienced also in the sharing of divine mercy, may be “dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us. In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of throwing open the doors of his heart and repeats that he loves us and wants to share his love with us. … In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: ‘Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old’”.