The Year of Mercy instituted by Pope Francis will affect the lives of students


Pope Francis declared the 2016 Church calendar year as the extraordinary jubilee Year of Mercy in the document Misericordiae Vultus, which was published on April 11, 2015. The Year of Mercy will begin next week on December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and will last until November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

The title Misericordiae Vultus translates as “The Face of Mercy,” and in it Pope Francis emphasizes the role of mercy, love, and forgiveness in the life of the Church and in the lives of individuals. Pope Francis exhorts the faithful to incorporate mercy and love into their daily lives and actions.

“Mercy,” he says, “is the very foundation of the Church’s life. … The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.” The motto of the Year of Mercy is “Merciful like the Father,” for the faithful are “to be instruments of mercy because it was we who first received mercy from God.”

The Year of Mercy is a jubilee year. The practice of celebrating jubilee years actually dates back to the time of Moses (Leviticus 25:8-13). In the Hebrew tradition, jubilee years were special years that were set aside for rest. The lands were not sown or harvested, debts were forgiven, and captives were set free. These years were times of restoration and celebration. Christians did not celebrate jubilee years until 1300 when Pope Boniface VIII declared the first such year. Jubilee years in the Catholic Church have been celebrated every 25 or 50 years since then. The pope may also declare extraordinary jubilee years as needed.

Father Peter Rocca, CSC, Rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart , said in a statement to the Rover that all jubilee years are “special year[s] of remission of sins and universal pardon, including temporal punishment for sins committed.”

In addition, Pope Francis declared that “a Door of Mercy will be opened for the duration of the Holy Year” in all papal cathedrals, cathedrals of dioceses, co-cathedrals, and other specially approved churches. These Doors of Mercy will be a pilgrimage site for the faithful during the Year of Mercy and will symbolize renewal and passage into a changed life.

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, of which Notre Dame is a part, will have three such sites: the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, Saint Matthew’s Co-Cathedral in South Bend, and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame. The Doors of Mercy in each of these churches will be opened on the Third Sunday of Advent, which is December 13, 2015. The Door of Mercy in St. Matthew’s will be opened at the 11:00 a.m. Mass. The Door of Mercy in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart will be opened at the 10:00 a.m. Mass. The Doors of Mercy at each of the sites will remain open for the duration of the jubilee year as a pilgrimage site.

Because the Year of Mercy is a jubilee year, there is a unique opportunity for Catholics to receive a plenary indulgence. A plenary indulgence has conditions attached to it and offers the faithful an opportunity to seek God’s forgiveness and to restructure their lives in a way that is good and beautiful. If the conditions for the plenary indulgence are satisfied well, a person may receive remission of temporal punishment of their sins. The conditions for the plenary indulgence during the Year of Mercy are to make a pilgrimage to a Door of Mercy, either in Rome or in a designated church (such as the Basilica); reception of sacramental confession; reception of the Eucharist; prayers for the Pope’s intentions; and the perfect exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin.

Notre Dame students have a unique opportunity to participate in the Year of Mercy because of the proximity of the Door of Mercy in the Basilica. Father Rocca advised that incorporating mercy into daily life means “forgiving others, not judging or condemning, by practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and by contemplating God’s mercy in our own lives.

“Pope Francis envisions a year when people will become more merciful in their own lives and bring God’s mercy to others,” Fr. Rocca concluded.

Brie Bahe is a junior neuroscience and behavior major with a minor in philosophy. She drinks copious amounts of coffee and enjoys wearing wool socks. Contact her at