05/09/2024, 21.25
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Holy Door in Prison and empty cradles, the challenges of the Jubilee of hope

On the Solemnity of the Ascension, Pope Francis this evening released the bull "Spes non confundit", announcing the Holy Year in 2025, delivering the document to Churches around the world. Reiterating his call for the guns to fall silent, he calls that the debt of poor countries be forgiven, “a question of justice”. He also expressed hope that the 1,700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea will offer a visible path on the ecumenical journey, beginning with the date of Easter.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis outlined this evening the main traits of the Jubilee of the Year 2025 in his Bull of Indiction Spes non confundit (Hope does not disappoint: Rom 5:5) in Rome during the Second Vespers of the Solemnity of the Ascension.

“Often,” he said, “we come across people who are discouraged, pessimistic and cynical about the future, as if nothing could possibly bring them happiness. For all of us, may the Jubilee be an opportunity to be renewed in hope. God’s word helps us find reasons for that hope.”

During the celebration, held in the atrium of St Peter's Basilica, Francis – in front of the still closed Holy Door – officially proclaimed the Ordinary Jubilee the Church celebrates every 25 years, which will start with the opening of the doors on Christmas Eve 2024.

He did so by symbolically handing over the document – that contains everything the Church wants to put at the centre of this event – to bishops and cardinals representing the world’s Churches. Card Luis Antonio Tagle, from the Philippines, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelisation, received it on behalf of Asian bishops.

The bull indicates the schedule of the Jubilee’s celebration. Like in the last Holy Years of the Catholic Church, the event can also be celebrated in individual dioceses by pilgrims unable to travel to Rome.

In cathedrals around the world, the Jubilee will begin on Sunday, 29 December 2024, and end on Sunday, 28 December 2025, a few days before the solemn conclusion in Rome on 6 January, 2026, on the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

The document explains above all that hope, the topic Francis chose for this Jubilee as a guide, should not be an ethereal inspiration, but ought to take shape through a series of signs.

In the pages of Spes non confundit, Pope Francis already announces that, for this Holy Year, there will be one Holy Door in a prison, which he will solemnly open, that it may be “a sign inviting prisoners to look to the future with hope and a renewed sense of confidence.”

This sign is meant to be also associated with "initiatives aimed at restoring hope” to those in prison.

As John Paul II did in 2000, Pope Francis will ask for "acts of clemency" such as an “amnesty or pardon," but also a strong commitment on the part of believers to demand “dignified conditions for those in prison, respect for their human rights and above all the abolition of the death penalty, a provision at odds with Christian faith”.

Along with prison, Pope Francis sees many other “signs of the times” in Spes non confundit, inviting the faithful to recognise them to confront themselves in order to help the world, “lest we be tempted to think ourselves overwhelmed by evil and violence.”

The first sign can only be peace in a world tragically plunged into war. Filled with sorrow, the pontiff notes that “many peoples are prey to brutality and violence.”

“What does the future hold for those peoples, who have already endured so much?” For this reason, the Jubilee of Hope should be an opportunity to remind everyone that “those who are peacemakers will be called ‘children of God’.”

For the Holy Father, the world today is also strongly marked by another sign that is short in hope, namely the “loss of the desire to transmit life”, exemplified by a demographic winter caused by a decline in the birth rate.

This, the pope insists, calls for urgent legislative action by governments to promote social practices that are open to having children.

The community of believers is also tasked to bear witness that “the desire of young people to give birth to new sons and daughters as a sign of the fruitfulness of their love ensures a future for every society. This is a matter of hope: it is born of hope and it generates hope.”

In this regard, Francis calls for "a social covenant to support and foster hope” against the temptation of “getting along one day at a time, settling for the here and now and seeking fulfilment in material realities alone.”

In addition, the pontiff calls for signs of hope for the sick, the young, the elderly living alone, urging openness to migrants, and listening to the cry of the poor who are “the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people.”

For the latter, he asks that in the Jubilee Year the richest nations show courage and “forgive the debts of countries that will never be able to repay them. More than a question of generosity, this is a matter of justice,” he insisted.

In the Bull of Indiction, the pontiff also notes that the upcoming jubilee falls on the 1,700th anniversary of the first great ecumenical Council at Nicaea, the one that defined the Creed that we still profess today.

May this "milestone in the Church’s history,” said the pontiff, become “a summons to all Churches and Ecclesial Communities to persevere on the path to visible unity,” starting with the definition of a common date for the celebration of Easter, which providentially overlaps in 2025 in both Gregorian and Julian calendars.

In all of this, Francis hopes that the Holy Year be a time to anchor ourselves in the reason for our hope, that is “the certainty that the history of humanity and our own individual history are not doomed to a dead end or a dark abyss, but directed to an encounter with the Lord of glory.”

The Jubilee Year, the pope explained, is also a time to ask questions about death, which “cannot be mitigated by empty rhetoric," but only rediscovered through the “new life that we have received in Baptism, a life capable of transfiguring death’s drama.”

In this regard, the pontiff cites the testimony of the martyrs who, “as confessors of the life that knows no end, are present and numerous in every age, and perhaps even more so in our own day.”

Ultimately, the goal of life is to “aspire to a happiness that is definitively found in the one thing that can bring us fulfilment, which is love.”

This is also the deepest meaning of the Jubilee indulgence. “Forgiveness does not change the past; it cannot change what happened in the past, yet it can allow us to change the future and to live different lives, free of anger, animosity and vindictiveness.”

“The coming Jubilee will thus be a Holy Year marked by the hope that does not fade, our hope in God. May it help us to recover the confident trust that we require, in the Church and in society, in our interpersonal relationships, in international relations, and in our task of promoting the dignity of all persons and respect for God’s gift of creation.”

Finally, “May the witness of believers be for our world a leaven of authentic hope, a harbinger of new heavens and a new earth, where men and women will dwell in justice and harmony, in joyful expectation of the fulfilment of the Lord’s promises.”

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