In May 2015, Pope Francis declared that there would be a Jubilee Year of Mercy from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016. Obviously, this is not a calendar year, but a special church year that extends from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2015 to the Feast of Christ the King in 2016, the last Sunday before the start of Advent.
The practice of a jubilee year has ancient roots in the Jewish tradition and evidence for it can be found in the Old Testament (for example, see Leviticus 25). The jubilee year was called every fifty years and was a time for forgiveness. It stood as a reminder of God’s providence and mercy. The dedication of a year for this emphasis provided the community with a time to come back into right relationship with one another and with God. As the practice of the jubilee year was adopted into the Catholic Church, these themes of mercy, forgiveness, and solidarity continued and the jubilee year is celebrated every 25 years.
However, Pope Francis has declared this an Extraordinary Jubilee Year, because it falls outside the 25-year cycle in order to emphasize the need to direct our attention to need for Mercy.
Why a Year of Mercy?
Pope Francis said he declared this year of mercy to direct our attention and actions “on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s actions in our lives . . . a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.” He also said:
“Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favourable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation. May the Mother of God open our eyes, so that we may comprehend the task to which we have been called; and may she obtain for us the grace to experience this Jubilee of Mercy as faithful and fruitful witnesses of Christ.”