The Holy Year of Mercy was welcomed in the Archdiocese with the opening of Holy Doors in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King as well as Holy Cross, St Helens and St Mary's, Leyland, all established as places of pilgrimage during the coming year.
In Rome, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St Peter's Square with a congregation of 60,000 before opening the Holy Door at the Basilica. In his homily he said: "This Extraordinary Year is itself a gift of grace. To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. It is He who seeks us! It is He who comes to encounter us! This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God's mercy.
"How much wrong we do to God and His grace when we speak of sins being punished by His judgement before we speak of their being forgiven by His mercy! But that is the truth. We have to put mercy before judgement, and in any event God's judgement 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, of tenderness. Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things."
At the end of Mass, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door reciting the words of Psalm 118: "Open to me the gates of justice."
On the previous Sunday, 6 December, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon had blessed and opened the Holy Door at the Metropolitan Cathedral with the words: "Bless this door which we consecrate to this time of Jubilee. Here, may we enter your presence as humble worshippers. From here, may we go forth as instruments of reconciliation to a troubled world."
The Archbishop began his homily by asking the congregation to reflect on the request of Pope Francis that the Church become "an oasis of mercy". He went on to outline the challenge of the Year of Mercy – "the challenge is to make it a spiritual year, a year of pilgrimage; the pilgrimage of our hearts so that our lives will be changed by the joy and peace that we discover within ourselves, within the Church and within Jesus present to us."
Archbishop Malcolm explained the symbolism of the Holy Door, saying: "To pass through the door is to confess with firm conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Lord and the Saviour who suffered, died and rose for our salvation. With great courage a person decides to cross the threshold, leaving behind the kingdom of this world so as to enter the new life of grace of the Kingdom of God – that is the power of the symbol of the Holy Door."
Two days later, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Archbishop Malcolm celebrated Mass at lunchtime in Holy Cross church, St Helens – before which he blessed and opened the Holy Door. Then in the evening he blessed and opened the Holy Door at St Mary’s, Leyland before presiding over Mass.
The Jubilee of Mercy is the first extraordinary Jubilee of this century. In the 20th century Pope Pius XI proclaimed a Holy Year in 1933 to commemorate the 19th centenary of the death of Christ, and Pope Paul VI inaugurated another in 1966 that lasted five months, dedicated to the closure of the Second Vatican Council. Finally Pope St John Paul II proclaimed the Holy Year of Redemption in 1983, for the 1,950th anniversary of the Redemption.
More details concerning the celebration of the Year of Mercy in the Archdiocese can be found at: www.yearofmercyliverpool.org.uk