Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary has opened a ‘Holy Door’ at Knock Shrine as Catholics across the world have started to observe and celebrate Pope Francis’ historic ‘Year of Mercy’. The world’s media and tens of thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Basilica on December 8 to watch Pope Francis open the Holy Door in Rome, a tradition that dates back to the 1400s.
In the days that have followed, Holy Doors, like the one at Knock, have been opening for the first time in cathedrals and important pilgrimage sites all over the world. Pope Francis has called the Holy Year – also known as a Jubilee – to encourage Catholics worldwide to be more merciful and practice forgiveness, compassion and good deeds. A Holy Year is one of the most important events in the Catholic Church and usually takes place just once every 25 years. It is a unique time when the faithful are called to refocus on prayer and good works, seek pardon for their sins and gain special indulgences.
Catholics were traditionally encouraged to make a pilgrimage to Rome during a Holy Year. They would conclude their spiritual and physical journey by crossing the threshold of the Pope’s Holy Door, symbolically marking their passage from sin into grace. This Jubilee, for the first time ever, it is not just pilgrims to Rome who will get to walk through a Holy Door and gain special indulgences. Pope Francis has asked for Holy Doors to be opened at cathedrals and major shrines across the globe so that Catholics everywhere can take part in the hugely symbolic practice. Knock Shrine’s Holy Door takes the form of a specially commissioned white archway, leading to the Chapel of Reconciliation.
Speaking at Knock Shrine on the opening of the Holy Year, Archbishop Neary said there is an ever greater need for Mercy in a contemporary society, where despite many advances, “a sense of unease, a sense of powerlessness and vulnerability are quite prevalent. The concept of mercy may be quite alien in many ways to contemporary society and this makes it all the more imperative for Christians to proclaim God’s mercy to the world,” said Archbishop Neary.
Fr Richard Gibbons, PP and Rector at Knock Shrine, said the act of pilgrimage is an important element of a Holy Year. “Pope Francis has asked Catholics everywhere to make a pilgrimage to reach a Holy Door because it represents the journey each of us makes in life,” outlined Fr Gibbons. The Arch of Mercy at Knock Shrine is a Holy Door and a symbol for the spiritual renewal which pilgrims are urged to experience during the Jubilee of Mercy. We anticipate many pilgrims making that special journey to Knock during this Holy Year.”