SEATTLE – Archbishop J. Peter Sartain will welcome the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy by opening the bronze doors at St. James Cathedral on Sunday, Dec. 13.
The ceremony echoes Pope Francis’ opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 8, the beginning of the Year of Mercy.
Holy doors are traditionally found in the four papal major basilicas in Vatican City and Rome, according to Andrew Casad, liturgy director for the Archdiocese of Seattle. But Pope Francis has encouraged each diocese to open a Holy Door at its cathedral, where pilgrims can journey during the jubilee year.
St. James Cathedral has designated its bronze doors, covered in depictions of stories of God’s mercy, as the church’s Holy Doors. At the Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater in Vancouver, the Holy Doors will be the main doors of the church.
“I think it’s an honor,” said Father W.R. Harris, pastor of the proto-cathedral. “I plan on passing through those doors every day.”
At the cathedral, the Dec. 13 noon liturgy will begin with an outdoor procession, led by Archbishop Sartain, from Cathedral Place Hall to the cathedral for the opening of the doors, according to Corinna Laughlin, the cathedral’s pastoral assistant for liturgy.
“The open door is a potent symbol for the open access to the mercy of God,” Laughlin said.
The proto-cathedral will celebrate the opening of its Holy Doors on Jan. 10, at the Mass for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
According to Catholic News Service, popes typically announce a jubilee every 25 years, although extraordinary holy years have been proclaimed for special anniversaries — for example, a holy year was celebrated in 1983 to commemorate the 1,950th anniversary of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Casad said the concept of a jubilee year evolved from the biblical practice of Israelites holding a jubilee every 50 years to cancel debts. Catholic jubilee years are special times for the remission of sin, and pilgrims who pass through a cathedral’s Holy Door are granted an indulgence. The last jubilee was in 2000.
St. James Cathedral will welcome pilgrims throughout the Year of Mercy and host a variety of events. Parishes throughout the archdiocese are encouraged to schedule group pilgrimages to the cathedral, Casad said.
This special year “invites us anew to enter the celebration of mercy,” he said.
Learn more about the Jubilee of Mercy.