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Bishop Malooly’s homily at. Ss. Peter and Paul Church, Easton, Md., for the opening of the Holy Door on Dec. 13

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The following is the recorded text of Bishop Malooly’s homily Dec. 13, 2015, Third Sunday of Advent [Gaudete Sunday] at Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Easton, Md., for the opening of the Holy Door for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Read more »

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The time of great pardon begins, pope says as holy doors open worldwide

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — With the opening the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Francis declared that the time for tenderness, joy and forgiveness had begun.

As holy doors around the world were opened at city cathedrals, major churches and sanctuaries Dec. 13, the pope said this simple gesture of opening God’s house to the world serves as “an invitation to joy. The time of great pardon begins. It is the Jubilee of Mercy.”

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome Dec. 13. Holy doors around the world were opened at city cathedrals, major churches and sanctuaries Dec. 13 as part of the Jubilee of Mercy. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome Dec. 13. Holy doors around the world were opened at city cathedrals, major churches and sanctuaries Dec. 13 as part of the Jubilee of Mercy. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Dressed in rose vestments on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, marking the joyful expectation of Christmas, the pope began the ceremony outside the basilica in front of the bronze holy door. The door depicts a bas relief of the crucified Christ looking down on Mary tenderly holding the baby Jesus, whose small foot shone like bright gold from the countless kisses and touches of visiting pilgrims.

“This is the door of the Lord. Open for me the gates of justice. I will enter your house, Lord, because of your great mercy,” the pope read solemnly before climbing two marble steps and pushing open the large door. He crossed the threshold decorated with a garland of flowers and greenery and bowed his head in silent prayer inside the darkened interior of the basilica.

The church and the people of God are called to be joyful, the pope said in his brief homily.

With Christmas approaching, “we cannot allow ourselves to become tired, no form of sadness is allowed even if we have reason for it with the many worries and multiple forms of violence that wound our humanity,” he said.

Amid the bullying, injustice and violence wrought, “above all, by men of power, God makes it known that he himself will rule his people, that he will never leave them at the mercy of the arrogance of their leaders and that he will free them of all anguish,” the pope said.

People today are called to listen to the words of the prophet Zephaniah in the day’s first reading, as he told God’s people not to be afraid or discouraged “because of doubt, impatience or suffering.”

God always protects his people, he is always near, the pope said, and that is why “we must always be joyful and with our kindness offer everyone witness of the closeness and care God has for everyone.”

The Holy Year of Mercy is meant to be a time for people to rediscover God’s real presence in the world and his tenderness, he said.

“God does not love rigidity. He is father. He is gentle. He does everything with fatherly tenderness.”

As Christians are called to cross the threshold of “the door of mercy,” they are asked to welcome and experience God’s love, which “re-creates, transforms and reforms life.”

From there, people of faith must then go out and be “instruments of mercy, aware that we will be judged by this,” the pope said. Being a Christian calls for a lifelong journey and a “more radical commitment” to be merciful like God the father, he added.

Christians are asked to be joyful as they open their arms to others and give witness to “a love that goes beyond justice, a love that knows no limits. This is the love we are responsible for despite our contradictions,” and weaknesses, he said.

Later in the day, the pope appeared at the window of the apostolic palace to recite the noonday Angelus with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

He focused on the day’s Gospel reading according to St. Luke, in which people in the crowd, including tax collectors and soldiers, asked St. John the Baptist “What should we do?” in order to convert and become acceptable for the coming of the Lord.

St. John does not leave them waiting for an answer, the pope said, and replies with concrete instructions: to live justly, in moderation and in solidarity toward those most in need. “They are the essential values of a life that is fully human and authentically Christian,” the pope said.

The saint said to share food and clothing, do not falsely accuse others, do not practice extortion and do not collect more than the tax prescribes, which means, the pope said, “no bribes. It’s clear.”

By addressing people who held various forms of power, the prophet showed that God excludes no one from being asked to follow a path of conversion in order to be saved, not even the tax collectors, who were considered among the worst of all sinners.

God “is anxious to be merciful toward everyone and welcome everyone in the tender embrace of reconciliation and forgiveness.”

Advent is a time of conversion and joy, he said. But today, in a world that is “assailed by so many problems, the future weighed down by the unknown and fears,” he said, people really need courage and faith to be joyful.

In fact, life lived with Christ brings the gift of solid and unshakable joy because it is rooted in knowing “the Lord is near” always.

The same morning, U.S. Cardinal James M. Harvey, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, opened that basilica’s holy door.

Pope Francis was scheduled to open the fourth and last holy door in Rome at the Basilica of St. Mary Major Jan. 1, the feast of Mary, Mother of God.

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Pope Francis greets Pope Benedict

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(CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

(CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI prior to the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 8. Pope Francis opened the Holy Door to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

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Pope Francis opens Holy Door at St. Peter’s to begin Year of Mercy

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY —Pope Francis’ voice echoed in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica: “Open the gates of justice.” With five strong thrusts, the pope pushed open the Holy Door, a symbol of God’s justice, which he said will always be exercised “in the light of his mercy”

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the Vatican Dec. 8. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the Vatican Dec. 8. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

The rite of the opening of the Holy Door, signaling the beginning of the Year of Mercy, was preceded by a Mass with 70,000 pilgrims packed in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

As the sun broke through the clouds, heralding the start of the jubilee year, the pope bowed his head and remained still for several minutes in silent prayer.

Amid a crowd of dignitaries and pilgrims, a familiar face was also present at the historic event: retired Pope Benedict XVI, who followed Pope Francis through the Holy Door into St. Peter’s Basilica.

During his homily, Pope Francis emphasized the “simple, yet highly symbolic” act of opening the Holy Door, which “highlights the primacy of grace;” the same grace that made Mary “worthy of becoming the mother of Christ.”

“The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history,” he said.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception, he continued, serves as a reminder of the grandeur of God’s love in allowing Mary to “avert the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world.”

“This is the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves,” he said. “Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy.”

The Year of Mercy, the pope stressed, is a gift of grace that allows Christians to experience the joy of encountering the transforming power of grace and rediscovering God’s infinite mercy toward sinners.

“How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy,” he said.

“We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgment will always be in the light of his mercy. In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love.”

Fifty years ago, he said, the church celebrated the “opening of another door,” with the Second Vatican Council urging the church to come out from self-enclosure and “set out once again with enthusiasm on her missionary journey.” The council closed Dec. 8, 1965.

Pope Francis, the first pope to be ordained to the priesthood after the council, said the council documents “testify to a great advance in faith,” but the council’s importance lies particularly in calling the Catholic Church to return to the spirit of the early Christians by undertaking “a journey of encountering people where they live: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces. Wherever there are people, the church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel. After these decades, we again take up this missionary drive with the same power and enthusiasm.”

Shortly after the Mass, as thousands of people waited in St. Peter’s Square for a chance to walk through the Holy Door, Pope Francis led the midday Angelus prayer.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception has a special connection to the start of the Year of Mercy, he said, because “it reminds us that everything in our lives is a gift, everything is mercy.”

Like Mary, the pope continued, Christians are called to “become bearers of Christ” and to “let ourselves be embraced by the mercy of God who waits for us and forgives everything. Nothing is sweeter than his mercy. Let us allow ourselves to be caressed by God. The Lord is so good and he forgives everything.”

 

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In Rome or at home, Catholics urged to take part in Year of Mercy

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Whether in Rome or at home, Catholics will have a variety of ways to take part in the Year of Mercy.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, the office organizing events for the Holy Year, presented details about some of the events planned at the Vatican and the services available for pilgrims.

Pope Francis will use a “very simple” ceremony to open the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 8, said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, council president, who spoke at a Vatican news conference Dec. 4. Read more »

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Pope in Bangui: Open the doors of mercy, counter violence with love

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Catholic News Service
BANGUI, Central African Republic (CNS) — Put down the weapons of war and work for justice, Pope Francis urged the people of the Central African Republic.
“Even when the powers of hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love and peace,” the pope said in an evening homily Nov. 29 at Bangui’s cathedral. Read more »

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God never shuts the door on mercy; Christian hearts must never be closed to others, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Because God always keeps open the door of his mercy and offer of salvation to everyone, the doors of every church and every Christian heart must never be closed to others, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis talks with a woman during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis talks with a woman during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

All over the world, individual Christians and the whole church must be seen as “the hospitality of a God who never shuts the door in your face with the excuse that you’re not part of the family,” he said during his weekly general audience Nov. 18.

The pope dedicated his catechesis to the symbol of the Holy Door, which will be opened at St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 8 to mark the start of the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy.

Holy doors around the world represent the “great door of God’s mercy” and are generously opened to receive people’s repentance and offer the grace of God’s forgiveness, he said.

The recent Synod of Bishops on the family was an occasion to encourage the church and all Catholics to meet God at this open door and to open their own doors to others, “to go out with the Lord” to encounter his children who are journeying, who are perhaps uncertain, perhaps lost, “in these difficult times,” he said.

“If the door of God’s mercy is always open, the doors of our churches, our love, our communities, our parishes, our institutions, our dioceses also must be open so that we all can go out to bring God’s mercy” to others, he said.

The jubilee year also represents the need to open the many small doors in everyone’s life so that “the Lord can come in or, many times, to let out the Lord imprisoned by our structures, our selfishness,” the pope said. “The jubilee means to let the Lord come in and go out.”

Don’t let the fact that so many homes and businesses deadbolt their doors for security reasons influence one’s personal approach to life, he said.

“We must not succumb to the idea of having to apply this system to our whole life, to family life,” to life in the city and community and much less to church life, he said.

“It would be terrible. An inhospitable church, just like a family closed inside itself, mortifies the Gospel and parches dry the world. No bolted doors in the church. None. Everything open,” he said to applause.

The symbolism of how a door is opened, how Jesus always knocks and asks permission to come in, “he never forces open the door” of one’s heart, is crucial, the pope said. The door is watched over and safeguarded by a custodian, but it is never slammed shut on anyone.

“The door is opened frequently in order to see if there is anyone outside waiting and perhaps doesn’t have the courage, perhaps not even the strength, to knock,” he said.

“These people have lost trust, they don’t have the courage to knock on the doors of our Christian hearts, the doors of our churches, and there they are — they don’t have the courage, we took away their trust,” Pope Francis said. “Please, this must never happen anymore.”

How people watch over this door says a lot about the church and the community, he said, so how one cares for “the doorway” calls for great discernment and must inspire confidence and trust in people on the outside.

Pope Francis said people can learn from concierges, porters and doormen around the world, who always smile and make people feel welcome and at home. Thanking them for their work, he said the astuteness and politeness they display right at the entrance set the tone for the whole building.

Jesus is the door and the good shepherd whose sheep hear, recognize and follow him, the pope said referring to chapter 10 of the Gospel of St. John.

Like the sheepfold, where God’s people are gathered, the pope said, “the house of God is a shelter, not a prison.” Jesus is the gate that lets people go in “without fear and go out without danger.”

The role of the gatekeeper is to listen to the shepherd, to open the door and to let in all the sheep, “all of them, including the ones that were lost in the wilderness that the good shepherd went to bring back. The gatekeeper does not choose the sheep, the parish secretary doesn’t choose them,” the pope said. “All the sheep are invited. They are chosen by the good shepherd.”

The gatekeeper, that is, everyone in the church, must obey the voice of God and remember “the church is the custodian of the Lord’s house, not the master of the Lord’s house.”

The pope also said that it takes courage to “cross the threshold” and accept God’s invitation.

“Each one of us has something that weighs on us inside, right? We are all sinners,” he said. “Let us take advantage of this moment that is coming and cross the threshold of this mercy of God who never tires of forgiving, who never tires of waiting for us, who looks upon us and is always by our side. Courage! Let’s enter through this door.”

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