How to Get the Most Out of the Year of Mercy in 2016

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
6 Jan 2016

The Official Logo for the Jubilee Year of Mercy with the theme 'Merciful Like the Father'

The start of a New Year is an opportunity for resolutions, renewal and change, and with a Jubilee Year of Mercy already underway, 2016 is set to be a unique and holy year for the Church and for Catholics around the world.

The 8th of December 2015 marked the beginning of the Holy Year of Mercy, an Extraordinary Jubilee Year called for by Pope Francis, which will conclude on 20 November 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

The Catholic tradition of practicing a Holy Year began with Pope Boniface VIII in 1300, and since 1475 an Ordinary Jubilee has been celebrated every 25 years in order to allow each generation to experience at least one during their lifetime.

The Holy Year is traditionally a year of forgiveness of sins and also the punishment merited by one's sins. It is also a year for reconciliation between enemies, conversion and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

For Catholics in the Archdiocese of Sydney, the Holy Year provides an opportunity for the faithful of Sydney to take part in a pilgrimage by entering the Holy Doors of St Mary's Cathedral, which were officially opened by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP during Advent last year. Those who walk through the holy doors in the year ahead will be given a unique opportunity to obtain a plenary indulgence, experiencing the mercy of God in a very special way in 2016.

What is a Plenary Indulgence? 

A Holy Year brings with it the chance for the faithful to gain a plenary indulgence. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1471, an indulgence is:

"…a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints".

In other words, sins have an impact or effect on us which tends to linger, even when the sins have been completely forgiven by God. Part of that effect is what we call the "temporal punishment due to sins" - but God's great Mercy makes it possible, through His Church, for the holiness of Christ and the Saints to even cancel out that "temporal punishment."

The Jubilee Indulgence is a plenary indulgence, which removes all of the temporal punishment due to sin.

How to obtain an indulgence during the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Archdiocese of Sydney:

For members of the Archdiocese of Sydney and visitors from other places, the indulgence can be gained at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney's CBD.

  1. Make a pilgrimage through the Door of Mercy in St Mary's Cathedral and:
  2. Link your walking through this Holy Door with:
    • The Sacrament of Reconciliation (received within several days before or after the pilgrimage)
    • Celebration of The Holy Eucharist - attend Holy Mass and receive Our Lord in the Eucharist.
    • Reflect on God's Mercy, and:
  3. Make a Profession of Faith (Creed) and Pray for Pope Francis and his intentions

Prayers for the Pope's intentions are left to the choice of the faithful, but an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" are customary. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father's intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.

Exceptions can be made by confessors for the sick and the homebound.

Indulgences can always be applied either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, but they cannot be applied to other persons living on earth.

The Works of Mercy

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP opened the Holy Doors at St Mary's Cathedral on Sunday, 13 December 2015

As Archbishop of Sydney, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP said in his homily when opening the Holy Doors of St Mary's Cathedral on Sunday, 13 December 2015, the Jubliee Year "doesn't finish with our receiving and appreciating mercy. Pope Francis has made the motto of this Year of Mercy: "Be merciful as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36). Having experienced divine pity we must mediate it to others. We must not only celebrate it, reflect upon it, but also live it - in spiritual and corporal works of mercy."

One way to do this is by undertaking "works of mercy." The Catholic Church has traditionally encouraged her children to understand the practice of merciful love by dividing the works of mercy into two kinds: corporal (that is, bodily) and spiritual. During the Jubilee Year, we are invited to undertake the works of mercy in a particular way, getting out of our comfort zones, and being a witness of the mercy of God to others.

One way to participate in the spiritual works of mercy is to participate in the Way of Mercy, a walking pilgrimage inside St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney.

Pope Francis has encouraged pilgrimages during the Jubilee of Mercy explaining "the practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life".

The Holy Year is traditionally a year of forgiveness

The Way of Mercy is marked out in St Mary's Cathedral, beginning with the Door of Mercy. Pilgrims will be led to six mercy stations, significant places in the Cathedral that have great meaning in our faith tradition. At these stations pilgrims are encouraged to rest, reflect and pray.

Pilgrims are invited to listen for the voice of the Father and to receive this time as a gift to enter into the graces of this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

Information about events of the Year of Mercy in the Archdiocese of Sydney will be made available at throughout the year.