Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, the secretary of the central committee preparing the Jubilee celebrations, made that announcement today as he concluded a preparatory meeting at which organizer began to settle the calendar for the Jubilee year.
Pope John Paul II will publish a statement explaining the special indulgences, and later a separate document-- a papal bull-- on the wider topic of the Holy Year. The papal bull will set out all of the special observations for the year, which will begin with the solemn opening of the "holy door" of St. Peter's Basilica on Christmas Eve, 1999. The formal ending of the Holy Year has not yet been set; it may be on Christmas Eve, 2000, or the celebrations may continue until the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2001. In view of the difficulty of accommodating the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who are expected to attend the Jubilee celebrations, there is even some discussion of prolonging the observances until Easter of 2001. Pope John Paul will make the final decision on that question.
The only foreign travel on the Pope's schedule for the Jubilee year will be a visit to the Holy Land. If circumstances permit, the Holy Father plans to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, and to participate in inter-religious events in March and April, 2000. In Rome, the many special celebrations planned for the year will include the World Youth Day in August, the 3rd Encounter for Families, the international retreat for priests, the world day of the sick, and special celebrations for travelers, union leaders, and other groups.
Bishop Sepe cautioned that while the Jubilee will involve substantial logistical difficulties, the greater danger is that people may lose sight of the spiritual purpose for the celebrations. "To forget the spirit of the faith on the 2,000th anniversary of Christ's birth would be a scandal," he observed.