Pilgrims to Knock Shrine will soon be able to take part in a hugely symbolic Catholic tradition, which dates back to medieval times and is usually reserved for pilgrims to Rome just once every 25 years or so.
A special Holy Door is to be opened at Knock Shrine next Saturday (December 12) as part of the Holy Year of Mercy.
The Holy Year, an historic and important event for the Church across the world, has been called by Pope Francis for December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016, to encourage Catholics everywhere to focus on forgiveness, compassion, hope and renewal.
A Holy Year, or Jubilee, has been taking place every 25 years since the 14th century – as well as on important dates and anniversaries in the Church’s history.
During a Holy Year, Catholics everywhere are called upon by the Pope to deepen and strengthen their faith.
The Church’s first ever Jubilee was instituted by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300, when Catholics were encouraged to make a pilgrimage to Rome to receive a special pardon for their sins.
During the following early Jubilees of the Church, a Holy Door was opened in Rome, which pilgrims could walk through as a special symbol of their spiritual renewal and passage from sin into grace.
The tradition of the Holy Door has continued ever since, and Pope Francis opened the huge bronze door at St Peter’s Basilica on Tuesday (December 8), which marked the beginning of the Year of Mercy.
For this Jubilee, the Pope has, for the first time, called on cathedrals and shrines of special significance all over the world, to open their own Holy Doors, to act as “Doors of Mercy”, so that pilgrims everywhere can experience the symbolism of the Holy Door.
Knock Shrine is to unveil its Door of Mercy next Saturday, December 12, in the form of a specially commissioned, unique, white archway at the Chapel of Reconciliation.
One of the aims of the Jubilee of Mercy is to underscore the importance of the Sacrament of Confession and for clergy and laity to focus on forgiveness and compassion rather than judgement.
It is for this reason that the Door of Mercy will be opened at the Chapel of Reconciliation at Knock, where confessions are available daily.
Fr Richard Gibbons, PP and Rector at Knock Shrine, said he has long believed the chapel to be the “real engine room of Knock”.
“After the Apparition Chapel, it is really the most important space at Knock Shrine because it is here that so many pilgrims find a special sense of peace, healing and renewed spiritual energy through the Sacrament of Confession,” he explained. “That is very much a part of what the Year of Mercy is all about.”
Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, will officially open the Arch of Mercy after the 7.30 pm Mass at Knock on Saturday, December 12.
As with the first Jubilee 700 years ago, pilgrimage is still an important aspect of a Holy Year in the Church today.
Catholics worldwide are encouraged to undertake a pilgrimage, both physically and spiritually, as a means towards renewing and deepening their faith.
Tens of millions of Catholics are expected to make a pilgrimage over the next 12 months to a holy site or shrine, such as Ireland’s national Marian shrine at Knock.
All are welcome to the opening of the Arch of Mercy at 8.15pm on Saturday, December 12, at the Chapel of Reconciliation, Knock Shrine, Co Mayo.