Pope Francis has announced a Year of Mercy which will run from 8 December 2015 to 20 November 2016.
The Down and Connor Diocesan Programme for the Year of Mercy will include:
- The Door of Mercy
On 8th December 2015 Pope Francis will open the Door of Mercy, in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, inaugurating the Year of Mercy. The following Sunday 13th December Bishop Noel Treanor will open a Door of Mercy for the Diocese in St Patrick’s Church, Donegall Street, Belfast at the 7.00pm mass. St Patrick’s Parish celebrates its bicentenary year, 1815-2015. It is hoped that many people from the diocese will join the parishioners of St Patrick’s for that occasion.
Bishop Treanor has also agreed that Clonard Monastery, Belfast, should also open a Holy Door to mark the 150th anniversary of devotion to the icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help. This will be an important part in Clonard’s celebrations leading to the Solemn Novena in June 2016.
The opening of these doors will symbolise Jesus opening his arms on the cross with mercy for all mankind. Pilgrims will then be invited to visit St Patrick’s Church, Belfast, at their own convenience during the Holy Year, and enter through the Door of Mercy as a sign of true conversion and closeness to God the Father. For those unable to actually go on pilgrimage to the Door of Mercy (i.e. the housebound and those imprisoned, who Pope Francis specially remembers in his letter) a ‘virtual online pilgrimage’ is being made available via the Diocesan Website. (www.downandconnor.org).
Pope Francis’ prayer is that all who make this pilgrimage, in whatever form, will “experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instils hope.”
- The Day of Mercy
In the New Year 2016, Bishop Treanor invites everyone in the Diocese to observe a special ‘Day of Mercy’ on the last Friday of every month beginning on Friday 29th January and concluding on 28th October 2016. This should be a day of prayer, fasting and almsgiving; a day when we remember God’s mercy for us and share that mercy with others.
The ‘Day of Mercy’ can be observed in various ways:
- Parishes could get together in their pastoral communities to plan for one monthly prayer service for the pastoral community and could be creative in addressing some joint practical work of mercy.
- Individuals, families and parish groups can mark this day in a traditional way or they may think of something new and imaginative.
- Diocesan organisations, who might want to plan a one-off event for the Year of Mercy, could plan that event for one of the Days of Mercy – if that is practical.
As a guide, a small booklet will be made available in all parishes in January containing prayers and suggestions for each ‘Day of Mercy’. Also, everyone could subscribe to ‘Thought for the Month’; a monthly message from Pope Francis which will be automatically sent to their smart-phone, tablet or computer on the ‘Day of Mercy’. (Go to the Diocesan Website www.downandconnor.org, click on the Year of Mercy icon, go to ‘Thought for the Month’ and enter your email address.)
‘Missionaries of Mercy’ (as Pope Francis calls them) will be available, on the ‘Day of Mercy’, for the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in St Patrick’s Church, Belfast. These ‘Missionaries of Mercy’ will be chosen from priests working in the Diocese and will be commissioned by Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday to be compassionate confessors who will emphasise the Father’s welcome.
The ‘Missionaries of Mercy’ will be available in St Patrick’s Church, Belfast, on
26th February 2016 7.00 – 8.00pm
25th March (Good Friday) 2016 7.00 – 8.00pm
29th April 2016 7.00 – 8.00pm
27th May 2016 7.00 – 8.00pm
24th June 2016 7.00 – 8.00pm
29th July 2016 7.00 – 8.00pm
26th August 2016 7.00 – 8.00pm
29th September 2016 7.00 – 8.00pm
28th October 2016 7.00 – 8.00pm
Pope Francis urges, “This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched! God never tires of reaching out to us”.
Bishop Treanor prays that this message of mercy may reach everyone. May no one be indifferent to the call to experience mercy, to be committed to mercy, so that we all, may be saved by mercy.
The full text of Bishop Noel Treanor’s pastoral letter on the Year of Mercy and a video presentation of the message are available from the Diocesan website www.downandconnor.org