VATICAN, Dec. 6, 01 (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II closed the Holy Door
of St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday, bringing a formal end to the Jubilee year.
However, in his homily the Holy Father pointed out that the call to
conversion of hearts remains an urgent priority for all believers. The Holy
Door is a symbol of Jesus Christ, he said, but even after it is closed, "the heart
of Christ remains more open than ever."
Before presiding at the Mass for Epiphany in St. Peter's Square, the Pope
knelt in silent prayer at the Holy Door of the Vatican basilica for a few last
moments-- just as he had knelt in the same spot after opening the Holy Door
to inaugurate the Jubilee on Christmas Eve, 1999.
At the short ceremony in which he closed the Door, the Pope was joined by
well over 150 other prelates. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, the chairman of the
Vatican committee that coordinated Jubilee plans, was among the last to step
through the door, pausing to kneel in prayer before he continued his
Following that 20-minute ceremony, the Pope followed the other bishops in
procession to the altar in the Square, where he celebrated Mass before a
congregation estimated at 100,000. In warm but windy weather, the
congregation filled St. Peter's Square, and trickled out onto the street
heading toward the Tiber River. The Pope was frequently interrupted by
applause during his homily, as he spoke of the "great year of grace" that the
Church had enjoyed. "Today that extraordinary year officially ends," he said.
"But the spiritual gifts remain, and will last until the end of time."
The success of the Jubilee should not give rise to any sort of triumphalism,
the Pontiff continued. "How could we succumb to that sort of temptation, at
the end of such an intensely penitential year?" he asked. He reminded the
congregation that the theme of the Jubilee had been a call to penance and
conversion, and recalled his plea for a "purification of memory" in light of
the fact that Christian history is "marked largely by our sins."
Nevertheless, John Paul went on, Christians can live with the "interior joy"
that comes from recognizing "the gifts we have received, and the certainty of
the enduring love of Christ." In that spirit, he urged all Christians to join in a
renewed effort to spread the Gospel, and to live a life of active prayer.
The Pope concluded his homily with same words that he used at the
beginning of his pontificate: "Open wide the doors to Christ!"
After the Mass, the Pope led the singing of the Te Deum in thanksgiving for
the blessings of the Jubilee year. Then he offered his thanks to the many
people who had helped to make the Jubilee a success. Finally, he toured
through St. Peter's Square in his Popemobile, greeting the faithful, before
retiring to his apartment.
The closing of the Holy Door came after a final night when the Vatican
basilica remained opened much later than usual-- until 3 in the morning-- to
accommodate the thousands of pilgrims who had come to Rome for the last
day of the Jubilee. (Ordinarily St. Peter's is closed at 6:30 in the evening.)
Vatican employees had received instructions that they should not close the
doors "until the last pilgrim has passed."
At the other three great basilicas of Rome, the Holy Doors had been closed
during the afternoon of January 5. Cardinal Carlo Furno, the archpriest of St.
Mary Major, closed the doors to that basilica. Cardinal Etchegaray was the
Pope's representative at St. John Lateran. And Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the
Pope's vicar for the Rome diocese, presided at St. Paul's Outside the Walls.
At noon on Saturday the Pope signed his apostolic letter, Novo Millennio
Ineunte, closing the Jubilee year. In four chapters, with 59 numbered
paragraphs, the document invites local churches to reflect on the results of
the Holy Year, and take "concrete initiatives" to capitalize on the spiritual
"After the enthusiasm of the Jubilee," Christians should not expect a return
to the routines of daily life, the Pope writes. "On the contrary, if our
pilgrimage has been authentic, it has strengthened our legs for the road that
lies ahead of us."
The full text of the Pope's apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, is
available on the Vatican web site: Novo Millennio Inuente.
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