December 8, 2015 marks the beginning of the Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church. The Jubilee begins with the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome by Pope Francis. This door is one which is only opened during the Holy Year and which remains closed during all other years. Each of the four major basilicas of Rome has a Holy Door: Saint Peter’s, St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major. This rite of the opening of the Holy Door illustrates symbolically the idea that, during the jubilee, the faithful are offered an “extraordinary pathway” towards salvation.
After the solemn inauguration of the Holy Year on December 8th, dioceses throughout the world will open their own Doors of Mercy, in communion with the Church in Rome, as part of the celebration of Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2015.
Archbishop William E. Lori, 16th Archbishop of Baltimore, has designated the following eight locations in the Archdiocese of Baltimore as Doors of Mercy: The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City, St. Ignatius (the historic church) in Hickory, St. John the Evangelist in Frederick, St. Mary in Annapolis, and Ss. Peter & Paul in Cumberland.
Pope Francis is offering a special indulgence to pilgrims during the Year of Mercy. Once pilgrims have crossed through one of the Holy Doors or Doors of Mercy or have fulfilled one of the other conditions under which Pope Francis has granted the Jubilee indulgence (for example, performing corporal or spiritual works of mercy), in addition to the usual conditions which require a heart well-disposed for the grace to bring its desired fruits, the faithful should stop in prayer to fulfill the final actions asked for the profession of faith, and prayer for the Holy Father and his intentions.
The Year of Mercy concludes on November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.