Pope Francis intends the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy to be an encounter with God the Father, “whose tenderness is almost tangible,” a Father who “welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed.” Thus, for the Jubilee Year, the Pope has expanded faculties to forgive abortion and also given priests of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X the faculties to licitly and validly hear confessions.
The Pope described the Heavenly Father this way and granted these permissions regarding confession in a letter released today. Written to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the letter first explains how members of the faithful can receive the jubilee indulgence.
The Year of Mercy runs from December 8, 2015, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, to November 20, 2016, the feast of Christ the King.
“It is indeed my wish that the Jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective,” the Pope states in the letter.
He goes on to speak of attaining the jubilee indulgence, with the traditional prerequisites for an indulgence, by making a “brief pilgrimage” to the Holy Doors, open in cathedrals or other designated churches, in shrines and “jubilee churches.”
For those who are sick, the elderly and alone, “often confined to the home,” the Pope says: “For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord who in the mystery of his Passion, death and Resurrection indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and loneliness. Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence.”
For those in prison, the Pope expresses his wish that they “all be touched in a tangible way by the mercy of the Father who wants to be close to those who have the greatest need of his forgiveness.”
“They may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom,” he added.
Corporal and spiritual works of mercy
Pope Francis says that doing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy will also bring the indulgence.
“I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity.”
Respect to life
The Pope then made two announcements regarding confessions during the jubilee.
The first he put in the context of one of the “serious problems of our time,” which is “the changed relationship with respect to life.”
“A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life,” he said.
Thus, the Pontiff noted that abortion is sometimes experienced with “superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails.”
Others, he said, feel they have “no other option.”
“I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion,” the Pope said. “I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.”
Francis said that understanding the truth of abortion can enable them not to lose hope, and he assured that God’s forgiveness “cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father.”
He then concedes “to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.”
The Pope also opened the graces of confession in another circumstance: for those faithful seeking the sacrament from a priest of the traditionalist group, the Society of St. Pius X.
“This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one,” the Pope said, and he added, “I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity.”
“In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.”