By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 26, 2015
ATLANTA—Catholics in the archdiocese will have the opportunity to start the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy by participating in the rites of the opening of Holy Doors.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory will lead the first celebration on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at the Cathedral of Christ the King, as Pope Francis and bishops across the globe start the special year with its call for Catholics to be people of mercy as Jesus Christ is “the face of the Father’s mercy.”
Archbishop Gregory will open the Holy Door at the cathedral and celebrate the 12:10 p.m. Mass for the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Holy Year extends from Dec. 8, 2015 until Nov. 20, 2016, the solemnity of Christ the King.
Six other Holy Doors will be opened at churches in the archdiocese in December, January and February.
Pope Francis announced the “extraordinary” jubilee year in April, a title which highlights that this year is beyond the normal calendar of jubilees held every 25 years.
This is a “special time for the church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective,” he wrote in the document “Misericordiae Vultus” (“The Face of Mercy”) which announced the year.
In his column in The Georgia Bulletin, Archbishop Gregory spoke of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy as the focus for Catholics during the Holy Year.
“Both of these categories of actions of faith stress our relationship with others and call us to be compassionate, forgiving, patient and merciful,” Archbishop Gregory wrote.
“In my humble opinion, the spiritual works of mercy may be more difficult to perform than the corporal works of mercy because they demand us all to change our own hearts. The spiritual works of mercy are founded on the Beatitudes—and we all know how challenging living the Beatitudes can be for each of us,” he continued.
According to “Mondo Vaticano,” published by the Vatican, the designation of a Holy Door has roots in the ancient Christian practice of public penitence when sinners were given public penances to perform before receiving absolution. The penitents were not allowed to enter a church before completing the penance, but were solemnly welcomed in when their penance was fulfilled. Pilgrims enter through a Holy Door as a sign of repentance and commitment to a life of faith.
Popes typically announce a jubilee every 25 years, although extraordinary Holy Years have been proclaimed for special anniversaries. The Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy includes the possibility of obtaining a plenary indulgence through performing works of mercy and charity, with a passing through a Holy Door.
A sign of mercy is being extended worldwide at the request of Pope Francis to petitioners seeking annulments. Starting Dec. 8, there will be no fee for marriage annulment applications in many dioceses, including in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. There will also be modifications in the process designed to help more people seek an annulment and expedite how quickly cases can be heard and where applications can be made.
Pope Francis also extended to all priests worldwide permission to grant absolution for the sin of abortion during the Holy Year in the sacrament of confession.
Using social media, Catholics are invited by the bishops to share messages highlighting acts of mercy using the hashtag: #mercyinmotion.
Part of the way believers can participate is attending special Masses at area parishes.
The start of the year begins symbolically with the opening of the first Holy Door at the Cathedral of Christ the King. The ceremony includes a procession of the faith community to a specially decorated door to symbolize the church’s pilgrimage, recital of Psalm 25 emphasizing God’s goodness and other prayers, along with participants reciting their baptismal promises. In addition, there will be a reading of portions of the papal document, “Misericordiae Vultus” (“The Face of Mercy”) which fully explains the holy year.
Archbishop Gregory or one of the auxiliary bishops, Bishop Luis R. Zarama and Bishop David P. Talley, will open the Holy Doors at six other churches of the archdiocese in coming days.