Pope Francis closed a special Holy Year of Mercy on Sunday by telling churchmen and a crowd of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square that using “power and success” to evangelize betrays the Gospel message.
“How many times, even among ourselves, do we seek out the comforts and certainties offered by the world,” Francis told the sun-splashed gathering and an array of more than 200 cardinals and bishops who celebrated Mass with him.
Among them were more than a dozen new cardinals he had elevated a day earlier.
Francis said the Holy Year of Mercy was a chance for Catholics to “rediscover the core, to return to what is essential” and to “rediscover the youthful, beautiful face of the church, the face that is radiant when it is welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means but rich in love, on mission.”
The pope’s homily essentially summarized the principal spiritual themes that Francis has stressed since his election in 2013: that the Catholic Church must identify with the poor and marginalized, must witness through service and must always stress the mercy of God rather than doctrinal proclamations and rigid rules.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy began last December and featured the opening of a Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica, as is customary for such occasions. But the pope also asked that dioceses and churches around the world establish their own holy doors for pilgrims to pass through, and even prison doors could be used as holy doors.
In an interview published last week, Francis said the idea for the Holy Year came to him as an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “I didn’t make any plan,” he said. “Things just came to me. I let myself be led by the Spirit.”
Vatican officials estimated that over 20 million people participated in the jubilee year events at the Vatican, many of them passing through the Holy Door to gain what the church calls a “plenary indulgence,” which is defined as “the remission before God of the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven.”