A woman touches the Holy Door in St. Peter's Basilica after Pope Francis opened it to mark the inauguration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the Vatican in this Dec. 8, 2015, file photo. Pope Francis has approved the theme "Pilgrims of Hope" to be the motto for the Holy Year 2025. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

The 2025 Jubilee Year

How to fan the flames as pilgrims of hope

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A jubilee year, also known as a holy year, is one of the great events of the Catholic Church. Celebrated every 25 years, this observance calls pilgrims to Rome and Catholics everywhere to focus on the beauties of the faith, to strengthen our relationship with the risen Lord and to practice more intently the virtues that make us Catholic Christians, especially the virtues of forgiveness, reconciliation and charity. The next jubilee, upcoming in 2025, has been proclaimed by Pope Francis as a Jubilee Year of Hope and takes on special meaning as the world continues to recover from the recent suffocating COVID-19 epidemic.

No one was immune from the COVID-19 crisis. Churches, schools and businesses were shut down, thousands succumbed to the illness and many, because of quarantine restrictions, died alone. It was a surreal time; we became like sheep wandering without a shepherd.

In centuries past, when a plague ravished the land, people flocked to the Church, to the promise and confidence of the Blessed Sacrament and our holy oasis. But on this occasion, the Church was locked. The impact of the coronavirus on our lives, especially on the young, was devastating. Faith and hope were shattered. During this jubilee year, the pope is summoning the faithful to Rome to rekindle faith, to renew in us God’s gift of hope: “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5).

Pope Francis issued a letter for Promotion of the New Evangelization, for the Jubilee 2025, Feb 11, 2022, which announced the jubilee and specifically addressed the pandemic. The document stated that “all of us saw certain freedoms curtailed, while the pandemic generated feelings not only of grief, but also, at times, of doubt, fear and disorientation. … We are fully confident that the epidemic will be overcome and that the world will return to its usual pattern of personal relationships and social life.”

Pilgrims from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, are pictured praying with a homeless man March 5, 2024, during a pilgrimage to Rome. OSV News photo/Jack Figge

The pope added: “We must fan the flames of hope that has been given us, and help everyone to gain new strength and certainty by looking to the future with an open spirit, a trusting heart and farsighted vision. The forthcoming jubilee can contribute greatly to restoring a climate of hope and trust as a prelude to the renewal and rebirth that we so urgently desire; that is why I have chosen as the motto of the jubilee Pilgrims of Hope.”

The holy year is a special opportunity for the People of God to prayerfully unite, to come out of the darkness associated with the nagging COVID-19 crisis, seemingly endless wars and constant devil-inspired secular world rhetoric, and then, filled with God’s grace, set out on a pilgrimage to a place of spiritual renewal. A jubilee pilgrimage is a time to reflect on ways we can respond to the needs of others — the poor, the marginalized, the immigrant and the refugee suffering in a world of plenty. The pope speaks about these individuals, as well as care for God’s creation in the aforementioned letter.

Jubilee Roots

The term jubilee is from the Hebrew, meaning to blow a horn or trumpet, and a jubilee year is described as either ordinary or extraordinary. The ordinary takes place every 25 years, while an extraordinary jubilee is held whenever the pope proclaims it. The ordinary jubilee is traced to the Old Testament Book of Leviticus: “You shall treat this fiftieth year as sacred” (25:10). The land shall not be planted and there is no harvesting; property shall revert to the original owner; debts will be forgiven, slaves released. The jubilee of the Scripture focuses on mercy, freedom, forgiveness, being careful with God’s creation. These themes form the basis for every jubilee year. There is little evidence that the Hebrews of the Old Testament era adhered to all the conditions of a jubilee year as specified in the Book of Leviticus.

The word jubilee is found in Leviticus and the Book of Numbers. It is inferred in several other Scriptures such as in the Gospel According to Luke (cf. 4:18-19). Luke tells of Jesus standing up in the Nazareth synagogue and reading from a scroll containing the words of the prophet Isaiah 61:1-3: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, / because he has anointed me to bring good tidings to the poor. / He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives / and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, / and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

These words of the prophet emphasize Leviticus 25. Then Jesus said to those listening: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). In other words, it is he that Isaiah is prophesying about. In this passage, Jesus establishes the jubilee practices of caring for the poor, of liberty, aiding the sick and freeing the oppressed as virtues that he and his apostles will practice and preach in their ministries.


Pope Francis 2025 Jubilee Year Bull of Indiction

Pope Francis officially proclaimed the Jubilee Year 2025 with his Bull of Indiction, Spes Non Confundit (“Hope does not disappoint”). This inspiring, May 9, 2024, document focuses on hope for mankind: “The storms that buffet us will never prevail, for we are firmly anchored in the hope born of grace, which enables us to live in Christ and to overcome sin, fear and death. This hope, which transcends life’s fleeting pleasures … inspires us to keep pressing forward, never losing sight of the grandeur of the heavenly goal to which we have been called.” The Holy Father wishes that everyone experiences a “personal encounter with the Lord Jesus” during this Jubilee Year of Hope.

Pope Francis urges pilgrimages to Rome, local churches and shrines in this holy year. He highlights the blessings of a pilgrimage and indicates that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the starting point for such a journey. Jubilee pilgrimages offer the faithful the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence.

Governments are encouraged to use the jubilee year to forgive debts, issue pardons, increase diplomatic efforts for peace and unity with other nations. The bull calls us to intensify our attention toward the needy of this world; not by words alone but actions that give them hope.

The jubilee schedule (Dec. 24, 2024 through Dec. 28, 2025) is detailed in the bull. Bishops are requested to celebrate Mass on Dec. 29, 2024, as the solemn opening of the jubilee year. Details for a pilgrimage to the cathedral are also included.


In the year 1300, Pope Boniface VIII (r. 1294-1303) declared the first jubilee, or holy year, in the Church and established a frequency of every 100 years. Eventually, in 1470, Pope Paul II (r. 1464-71), designated every 50 years as the timeframe for such celebrations. In 1475, Pope Sixtus IV (r. 1471-84) made them every 25 years. Next year will commemorate the 27th ordinary jubilee in Church history.

That first jubilee year resulted from the actions by the faithful. As the new century was drawing near, many Catholics became convinced that if, during the year 1300, they made a pilgrimage to Rome, their sins would be forgiven. While no such decision had been made by the Holy See, Pope Boniface VIII perpetuated the belief by calling 1300 a jubilee year and authorizing a plenary indulgence to anyone who made the pilgrimage and visited St. Peter’s Basilica. The pope specified that to earn the indulgence the pilgrim from outside Rome had to visit the basilica 15 times during the year, and those from Rome had to visit St. Peter’s 30 times in the jubilee year.

Designating a jubilee year as extraordinary began in the 16th century; examples of such jubilees: the 1,900th anniversary of the Passion of Christ (A.D. 33) was celebrated in 1933; in 1954, the 100th anniversary of the Immaculate Conception dogma was celebrated with a Marian year. The most recent extraordinary jubilee took place in 2016 proclaimed by Pope Francis as an extraordinary Year of Mercy.

Opening the Holy Doors

The beginning of every jubilee year is marked with the opening of the sealed Holy Doors at the Rome basilicas of St. Peter, St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore). On Christmas Eve 2024, Pope Francis will ceremoniously open and walk through the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s; days later, he will repeat the same ritual at the other basilicas. There is great symbolism in opening the doors into the basilica as it calls to mind opening the door to heaven. Taking place on Christmas Eve only adds to the sacredness of this event orchestrated by the successor of St. Peter.

This is an ancient ceremony that began in 1423 by Pope Martin V (r. 1417-31): the first such door to be opened was at St. John Lateran. For the jubilee of 1500, the doors of the other three basilicas were also opened. In centuries past, the doors, actually a solid wall, were destroyed during the opening of a jubilee year. Masons would loosen the door, or wall, so that it would fall by a few taps from the pope using a silver hammer. Today, the installed bronze doors are unsealed in advance and the pope can easily open them.


Rome’s Jubilee 2025 Pilgrim Churches

For the Jubilee 2025, several churches are designated in Rome as gathering points for pilgrims. These churches will have sessions of catechesis for people to rediscover the true meaning of the Holy Year. They afford pilgrims the chance to receive reconciliation and a time to pray.

The churches include the Sanctuary of Divine Love, the Basilica di Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, Church of St. Prisca, the Basilica of Sts. Silvester and Martin in the Monti, Church of Santa Maria in Monserrato, the Church of San Giovanni Battista dei Fiorentini, Church of Santa Maria del Suffragio, Church of Spirito Santo dei Napoletani, Church of Santa Caterina da Siena, Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella and Church of San Salvatore in Lauro. Each church has historical significance.


A highlight for the jubilee pilgrim is entering through the Holy Door at one of the four Rome basilicas. In his Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 (Incarnationis Mysterium), Nov. 29, 1998, Pope St. John Paul II (r. 1978-2005) explained the significance of the Holy Door: “It evokes the passage from sin to grace which every Christian is called to accomplish. Jesus said, ‘I am the door’ (Jn 10:7), in order to make it clear that no one can come to the Father except through him. … To pass through the door means to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; it is to strengthen faith in him in order to live a new life which he has given to us. It is a decision which presumes freedom to choose and also the courage to leave something behind, in the knowledge that what is gained is divine life (cf. Mt 13:44-46)” (No. 8).

The Holy Doors are open only during the jubilee year and ritually sealed at the end of that year. The 2025 Jubilee will end with the closing of the Holy Doors on Jan. 6, 2026.

Holy door

Celebrating Outside Rome

Pope Francis issued his 2025 Jubilee Year Bull of Indiction on Ascension Thursday of this year, which provided additional information and instructions for the yearlong activity, including pilgrimage locations for the faithful who cannot go to Rome. Typically, in addition to the Holy Land, other locations designated for local pilgrimages include the diocesan cathedral and shrines as specified by the local bishop. During recent jubilees, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., was designated as a jubilee location. Walking through the doors at a designated site is akin to walking through one of the basilicas in Rome. Symbolically, the Holy Door is the narrow gate that all the People of God pursue. Pope Francis will offer ways for the sick and homebound to be part of the jubilee.

Parish pastors may seek to orchestrate group or individual pilgrimages to the approved locations. Making such a pilgrimage, attending Mass or participating in other pious exercises (Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, etc.) and praying the Our Father, the Creed and the Hail Mary is in keeping with the spirit of the jubilee. This can result in a plenary indulgence, assuming all norms are satisfied.

In John 10:9, Jesus says: “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” AdobeStock

The jubilee becomes more meaningful to the parish faithful when they are reminded of the purpose, when visual aids like banners proclaim the Holy Year, when pilgrimages are formed, when activities are initiated — for example, reaching out to the fallen away, highlighting food-bank needs, designating certain days as jubilee days. These designated days might include Corpus Christi Sunday, celebrating the parish’s patron saint, the annual parish bazaar or picnic, March for Life. To implement parish events so parishioners can be educated and participate in the jubilee, review information at USCCB.com provided by the U.S. bishops.

In addition to the U.S. bishops, the Vatican website, iubilaeum2025/va/en is the official Church source offering numerous suggestions and detailed information on how to celebrate the jubilee. Rome is expecting an estimated 35 million visitors during the jubilee.

Jubilee Indulgence

During a jubilee, the pope traditionally authorizes a special plenary indulgence — a remission of temporal punishment. The indulgence can be obtained by walking through the Holy Doors in Rome or visiting a designated jubilee holy site and then fulfilling the expectations associated with the visit and the requirements for an indulgence: sacramental confession and forgiveness, completing the assigned penance, being free from all sin, receiviing holy Communion, praying for the intentions of the pope. Pope Francis will announce the details of receiving the 2025 Jubilee special indulgence in a papal message sometime this year.

An example of the details of a papal indulgence is found in Pope St. John Paul II’s Jubilee 2000 indiction bull: The faithful can gain the jubilee indulgence if they “make a sacred pilgrimage to the cathedral church or to other hurches or places [shrine] designated by the ordinary and there assist devoutly at a liturgical celebration or other pious exercise … spend time in pious meditation, ending with the Our Father, the profession of faith … and prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary” (Nov. 29, 1998). Completing all the norms for the indulgence is also necessary. The indulgence can be obtained for ourselves or a poor soul in purgatory.

Pope Francis has encouraged us to prepare for the 2025 Jubilee in two special ways: study and exploring the rich words in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, especially the direction offered in the council’s prime constitutions. These include the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sancrosanctum Concilium), Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) and Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). Every pope since the end of Vatican II in 1966 has urged Catholics to seek the truth intended by the council fathers. Pope Benedict XVI said that Vatican II “documents were quickly buried under a pile of superficial and frankly inexact publications. The reading of the documents will enable us to discover their true spirit” (“The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church,” Ignatius, $14.95).

The pope asks us to also participate in a 2024 Year of Prayer, leading to the holy year. Among the Vatican publications supporting these preparatory actions is one titled “Teach Us to Pray,” which reads: “Thus, for every Christian, may prayer be the compass that guides, the light that illuminates the path and the strength that sustains us on the pilgrimage that will lead to entering the Holy Door. Through prayer, may we arrive at the Holy Door with our hearts ready to welcome the gifts of grace and forgiveness that the jubilee offers as a vivid expression of our relationship with God. Let us immerse ourselves through prayer in an ongoing dialogue with the Creator, discovering the joy of silence, the peace of abandonment and the power of intercession in the communion of saints” (Vatican Dicastery for Evangelization, February 2024).

Nicholas Patrick Wiseman, in his book “The Last Four Popes and of Rome in Their Times” (Salzwasser-Verlag, 2023) talks about the preparations in Rome for the jubilee of 1825, during the reign of Pope Leo XII (r. 1823-29): “It is a year in which the Holy See does all it can to make Rome spiritually attractive and spiritually only. The theaters are closed, public amusements suspended; even private recreation pressed with the bonds of Lenten regulations.” The author also tells how improvements were made to religious institutions and continues, “but more serious still were the preparations necessary to lodge and feed the crowds of pilgrims who were expected.” Pope Leo XII also went to great lengths to improve several roads leading to Rome. Two hundred years later, the Holy See continues to create a multitude of measures in preparing for a jubilee year.

For 2025, the Vatican has already designed many opportunities for pilgrims to pray, participate in special devotions, attend a papal audience, receive the sacraments, as well as encouraging them to take advantage of the many cultural events and exhibits happening throughout the year. Not only the Vatican, but the city of Rome also goes to extra lengths in readying the city for a jubilee. For 2025 multiple projects at the cost of over $2 billion have been identified, largely concerning infrastructure, safety, security and comfort for the visitor. 

D.D. EMMONS writes from Pennsylvania.


What is a Holy Year?

The Vatican’s website for a jubilee summarizes a holy year as the following: “In the Roman Catholic tradition, a holy year, or jubilee, is a great religious event. It is a year of forgiveness of sins and also the punishment due to sin, it is a year of reconciliation between adversaries, of conversion and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and consequently of solidarity, hope, justice, commitment to serve God with joy and in peace with our brothers and sisters. A jubilee year is above all the year of Christ, who brings life and grace to humanity.”


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