Reflecting particularly on Mary’s title as “mother of mercy,” Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome on Jan. 1.
“It is most fitting that on this day we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary above all as ‘mother of mercy.’ The door we have opened is, in fact, a Door of Mercy,” Pope Francis said. “Those who cross its threshold are called to enter into the merciful love of the Father with complete trust and freedom from fear; they can leave this Basilica knowing that Mary is ever at their side.”
The Pope’s remarks came on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. As part of his celebration of the day, the pontiff opened the final holy door of the four major basilicas in Rome.
The other three major basilicas – St. Peter’s, St John Lateran, and St. Paul “Outside the Wall” –have already had their holy doors opened during the early days of the Jubilee of Mercy, an Extraordinary Holy Year called for by Pope Francis that began Dec. 8 with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and will end on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 20, 2016.
Pilgrims who pass through the holy doors in Rome or in their own dioceses have the opportunity to gain a plenary indulgence, if they meet certain conditions.
As he opened the holy door at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Pope Francis drew a connection between the Jubilee of Mercy and Mary, the mother of mercy.
“She is the Mother of mercy, because she bore in her womb the very Face of divine mercy, Jesus, …The Son of God, made incarnate for our salvation, has given us his Mother, who joins us on our pilgrimage through this life, so that we may never be left alone, especially at times of trouble and uncertainty.”
The Pope reflected on the lines of an ancient hymn: “Hail Mother of mercy, Mother of God, Mother of forgiveness, Mother of hope, Mother of grace and Mother full of holy gladness.”
“In these few words, we find a summary of the faith of generations of men and women who, with their eyes fixed firmly on the icon of the Blessed Virgin, have sought her intercession and consolation,” he said.
While the idea of “forgiveness” is misunderstood in the modern world, it is critical in the Christian faith, Pope Francis said.
“A person unable to forgive has not yet known the fullness of love. Only one who truly loves is able to forgive and forget,” he said, adding that at the foot of the Cross, Mary becomes for all people the mother of forgiveness, as she follows in the example of her Son who forgives those who are killing him.
“For us, Mary is an icon of how the Church must offer forgiveness to those who seek it,” Pope Francis continued.