Pope John Paul II kneels at the Holy Door before shutting the large bronze door to close the Holy Year in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in this Jan. 6, 2001, file photo. Pope Francis will open the Holy Door in St. Peter's Dec. 8 during a Mass marking the opening of the Holy Year of Mercy.
Maurizio Brambatti/Reuters, cns
As the Jubilee of Mercy opens Dec. 8, Pope Francis will open the Holy Door at the Vatican. At the 10 a.m. Mass Dec. 13, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, will open the Holy Door — designated as the left of the main doors to the Cathedral of Christ the Light — to signify the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy in the Diocese of Oakland.
The website www.jubileeofmercy-eb.org website will go live on Nov. 23. It will serve as a source of information for activities during the year. It will also be the online home of "The Mercy Project: Diocese of Oakland," a video series featuring people who are putting mercy into action. An introductory video by Bishop Barber will be available Nov. 23; additional videos will be released once or twice a month.
Through that door, it is hoped, that pilgrims from throughout the diocese will come and sign their names to the book that will commemorate this holy time.
The Jubilee of Mercy, which Pope Francis announced March 13, will involve significant works of mercy throughout the diocese over the next year.
Before the celebration ends Nov. 20, 2016, all parishes in the Diocese of Oakland will take part in efforts to build awareness about human trafficking in the Bay Area. Catholic Charities of the East Bay and the Department of Faith Formation and Evangelization are partnering to provide information.
Additionally, an ecumenical work of mercy will take place within the diocese.
Plans are still being finalized for activities during the extraordinary year, with an emphasis on putting into practice the seven corporal works of mercy, as well as the seven spiritual works of mercy.
In various deaneries throughout the diocese, the Department of Faith Formation and Evangelization will present the Year of Mercy Enrichment Series entitled, "Missionaries of Mercy … Be Spirit Filled." Presentations will be made in both English and Spanish.
A series earlier this fall was completed at Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont.
Among the major events is the celebration of 24 Hours for the Lord on March 4-5.
Bishop Barber will close the Jubilee of Mercy in the Diocese of Oakland at the 10 a.m. Mass Nov. 20, 2016, at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
Dates to remember
Nov. 16, www.jubileeofmercy-eb.org website debuts. Introduction to "The Mercy Project: Diocese of Oakland" available online.
Dec. 7, 14, 15, 22 Year of Mercy Enrichment Series, 7-8:30 p.m., St. Callistus Parish, 3580 San Pablo Dam Road, El Sobrante. $15 for all four sessions.
Dec. 8, 2015-Nov. 19, 2016 Confession available at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, 11 a.m.-noon Monday-Friday; 4-5 p.m. Saturday.
Dec. 13, 10 a.m. Mass at Cathedral of Christ the Light: Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, will open the Holy Door at the cathedral and celebrate Mass to begin the Jubilee of Mercy
Early 2016 Pilgrimages to the Cathedral of Christ the Light begin
March 4-5, 2016 Celebration of 24 Hours for the Lord, at Pope Francis' invitation, at the Cathedral of Christ the Light and in deaneries throughout the diocese
Nov. 20, 2016, 10 a.m. Mass at Cathedral of Christ the Light: Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ will close the Jubilee of Mercy, and thank the ministers of mercy in the Diocese of Oakland
During the year
Year of Mercy Enrichment Series, sponsored by the Department of Faith Formation and Evangelization, to be held in locations through the diocese
Interfaith work of mercy in the Diocese of Oakland
Building awareness at the parish level about human trafficking in the Bay Area — a diocesan theme for the Jubilee of Mercy — will be facilitated by Catholic Charities of the East Bay and the Department of Faith Formation and Evangelization
Additional hours for Sacrament of Reconciliation at the Cathedral
Tear down this wall: Holy Year calls
for human barriers to tumble down
Pilgrims pass through the Holy Door in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in this June 2000 photo.
Catholic Press Photo/cns file photo
VATICAN CITY — For a spiritual leader who denounces a world divided by walls, a church shuttered by cliques and hearts hardened to compassion, opening wide the Holy Door for the Year of Mercy will be a significant and symbolic moment for Pope Francis.
In Catholic tradition, the Holy Door represents the passage to salvation — the path to a new and eternal life, which was opened to humanity by Jesus.
It also symbolizes an entryway to God's mercy — the ultimate and supreme act by which he comes to meet people. Mercy is "the bridge that connects God and humanity, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness," the pope wrote in "Misericordiae Vultus" ("The Face of Mercy"), instituting the Holy Year of Mercy.
Doors have always had a special meaning for the Catholic Church, according to the late-Cardinal Virgilio Noe, the former archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica.
"The door of a church marks the divide between the sacred and profane, separating the church's interior from the outside world. It is the boundary defining welcome and exclusion," he wrote in the book, "The Holy Door in St. Peter's" in 1999.
The door is also a symbol of Mary — the mother, the dwelling of the Lord — and she, too, always has open arms and is ready to welcome the children of God home. Pope Francis was scheduled to open the door Dec. 8, the feast of Mary's immaculate conception.
But the door especially represents Christ himself — the one and only way to eternal life. As Jesus said, according to the Gospel of John (10:9), "I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture."
The Holy Year traditionally begins with the opening of the Holy Door to represent a renewed opportunity to encounter or grow closer to Jesus, who calls everyone to redemption.
Jesus knocks on everyone's door; he yearns to accompany and nourish everyone. "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me," the Book of Revelation quotes him as saying.
But doors are also narrow, Cardinal Noe wrote, and people must stoop with humility and "be brought down to size by conversion" in order to be "fit" for eternal life.
That is why passing through a Holy Door is part of a longer process of sacrifice and conversion required for receiving an indulgence granted during a Holy Year. A plenary indulgence, the remission of temporal punishment due to sin, is offered for pilgrims who also fulfill certain other conditions: reception of the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist, visits and prayers for the intention of the pope and performing simple acts such as visiting the sick.
This spiritual process of encounter and conversion is made tangible in the elaborate rituals developed over time for the opening of the Holy Door.
The symbolic ceremony of opening a Holy Door came more than a century after the first Holy Year was proclaimed in 1300.
Pope Martin V, in 1423, opened the Holy Door in the Basilica of St. John Lateran for the first time for a jubilee. Next, Pope Alexander VI called for all four Holy Doors in Rome to be opened at Christmas in 1499 for the Jubilee of 1500.
Starting in the 16th Century, the ceremony to open the door in St. Peter's Basilica included the pope reciting verses from the Psalms and striking the wall covering the Holy Door with a silver hammer three times.
Masons completed the task of dismantling the brick and mortared wall, which represents the difficulty and great effort required to overcome the barrier of sin and to open the path to holiness.
While there have been some changes to those ceremonies over time, the Holy Door is always a reminder that because of God's mercy, any obstacles can always be removed, and the door to hope and forgiveness is always there waiting.
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