February 18, 2022


Let us be ‘pilgrims of hope’ as we journey toward heaven

“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1817).

As Catholics, we are “a people of hope.”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, reminded us of that in a book he co-authored with that title with longtime Catholic journalist John Allen, Jr., in 2011.

And now Pope Francis on Feb. 11 formally declared “Pilgrims of Hope” as the theme for Holy Year 2025.

“We must fan the flame of hope that has been given us and help everyone to gain new strength and certainty by looking to the future with an open spirit, a trusting heart and far-sighted vision,” the pope wrote in a letter formally entrusting preparations for the Holy Year to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Held every 25 years since 1470, a holy year or jubilee is a time of pilgrimage, prayer, repentance and acts of mercy, based on the Old Testament tradition of a jubilee year of rest, forgiveness and renewal. A formal “bull of indiction” proclaiming the Holy Year will be released closer to 2025. Holy years also are a time when Catholics visit designated churches and shrines, recite special prayers, go to confession and receive Communion to receive a plenary indulgence, which is a remission of the temporal punishment due for one’s sins. The last Ordinary Jubilee was the Great Jubilee of 2000, celebrated by Pope John Paul II.

Traditionally for holy years, the celebrations begin with the pope opening the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Eve and ends with the sealing of the door one year later. The holy doors of St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major are opened for the year, too.

During the holy year, the pope is encouraging people of faith to restore a climate of “hope and trust” after the coronavirus pandemic and helping people repair their relationships with God, with each other and with the Earth.

Coming after the pandemic, he said, “the forthcoming jubilee can contribute greatly to restoring a climate of hope and trust as a prelude to the renewal and rebirth that we so urgently desire; that is why I have chosen as the motto of the jubilee, ‘Pilgrims of Hope.’ ”

Pope Francis also hopes it will be a time to foster a greater sense of global brotherhood and solidarity with the poor, as well as care for the environment.

The words “pilgrims” and “hope” represent key themes of Pope Francis’ pontificate, noted Archbishop Fisichella. 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic which has touched all corners of the globe, the Holy Father wrote that we also must be capable of “recovering a sense of universal fraternity and refuse to turn a blind eye to the tragedy of rampant poverty that prevents millions of men, women, young people and children from living in a manner worthy of our human dignity.” With this in mind, continued the pope, “I think in particular of the many refugees forced to abandon their native lands.” 

Pope Francis also expressed his hope that Christians’ jubilee pilgrimages would include time “to contemplate the beauty of creation and care for our common home.” 

While 2025 is still a few years away, the pope expressed his desire that in our time of preparation, “we devote 2024, the year preceding the Jubilee event, to a great ‘symphony’ of prayer. 

“Prayer, above all else,” noted the Holy Father, “to renew our desire to be in the presence of the Lord, to listen to him and to adore him.” 

Although we continue to face what seem to be never-ending global challenges—most recently with the COVID pandemic, a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine and the tragedy of human trafficking, among other issues—we must continue to be a people of hope.

Pope Francis wants all of us to get to our destination of heaven. And he wants us to get there together.

 —Mike Krokos

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