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Pope Francis declares a Jubilee Year

Mar 19, 2015

The Jubilee year is to begin December 8, 2015 and end on November 20, 2016. It is being called a Year of Mercy.


Vatican City, Mar 13 (EFE).- While celebrating his second anniversary in the papacy this Friday, Pope Francis announced a Jubilee Year focused on one of the concepts he most often preaches: mercy….

Francis will dedicate the Jubilee to the virtue of mercy, to which he has referred on multiple occasions and which is the basis of the episcopal motto that he chose when he became a bishop: "Miserando atque eligendo" (He looked at him with mercy and He chose him).

During his sermon he said that "no one can be excluded from the mercy of God…."

It will begin on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and will come to an end on Nov. 20, 2016, the date when the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is celebrated.

The tradition of Jubilee, or Holy Year, goes back to the year 1300, when Pope Boniface VIII decreed that it must be celebrated every century.

Pope Francis gives no indication that he really understands the law of Jubilee, but nonetheless, he may be prophesying inadvertently.

The law of Jubilee was always about mercy and grace, since it cancelled all debt (sin) and allowed every man to return to his lost inheritance. The pope’s decree seems to be based on the idea that people can receive mercy if they return to the Roman Church, which is quite different from God’s Jubilee. However, the idea that “no one can be excluded from the mercy of God” is certainly a biblical principle when viewed in the light of Universal Reconciliation as the Apostle Paul taught.

Pope Francis’ Jubilee decree remains limited by the walls of the Church, opening up mercy to all who would return to the Church. An earlier Jubilee in 1294, issued by Pope Celestine V, was more merciful in that forgiveness of sin was made free of charge. He declared a Jubilee over all mankind in order to forgive all sin, set men free, and institute universal reconciliation.

On August 29, 1294, the hermit Pietro del Morrone was consecrated as pope Celestine V in the church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, in commemoration of which the pope decreed the annual religious rite of the Pardon (Perdonanza Celestiniana), still observed today in the city on August 28 and 29; it is the immediate ancestor of the Jubilee year.


To issue a universal pardon free of charge was disastrous in the eyes of the bishops, who depended upon the sale of pardons for much of their income. Celestine, however, used his newly-found authority to forgive the world, and then he began giving away the wealth of the Vatican to the poor. Something had to be done about this. So his Secretary of State, Benedict Gaetani, convinced the pope to resign and immediately was elected as Pope Boniface VIII to replace Celestine.

Boniface VIII was said to be the last true Roman Emperor-Pope. More than anything, his dream was to gain political power over all of Europe. Because of this, it was inevitable that he would clash with other monarchs. Ultimately, he disputed with King Philip IV of France over money. Philip ultimately overthrew the pope and took him prisoner in 1303. He died in prison later the same year.

It is perhaps poetic justice that Boniface had done the same to his predecessor, Pope Celestine V (who was Peter Marone). But first, a little background…

The New Testament Church began in simplicity in 33 A.D. with a non-political message of love, based upon the teachings of Jesus Christ, who made no effort to attain political power by force. Then 1,260-years later (1293 A.D.) the Church came to another interesting turning point, and God gave the Church an opportunity to repent. Who but God could have sovereignly engineered such events? It was as if the Roman Church came to a crossroad, and God tested their hearts to see what type of kingdom they wanted to have.

Pope Nicolas IV died in 1292. There was, actually, no pope at all in 1293, because the cardinals from the Orsini family and the Colonna family could not agree upon his successor. Chamberlin records on pages 79, 80 of his book, The Bad Popes,

“The casual conversation became more animated as the cardinals retailed the legends of Peter, some perhaps with concealed scorn, others with genuine conviction. Then Malabranca said loudly, ‘In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I elect brother Peter of Morone.

“It seemed a fantastic idea, an almost miraculous demonstration of the doctrine that, ultimately, it was the Holy Ghost who guided the decision of the conclave. In the past, that guidance had been manifested in perplexing ways, but here it seemed was a pure and unequivocal choice—a holy man already dedicated to the Holy Ghost, elected spontaneously.”

Pope Celestine V was nominated and elected by the cardinals on Aug. 29, 1294. Celestine was Peter Morone, a saintly old hermit-priest in his eighties, who lived in a cave on the top of a mountain. He wore rough clothing, modeling his life after John the Baptist. He was an ascetic who fasted every day except Sunday. When he was elected Pope, the cardinals actually had to search for him on the mountain top.

Celestine was probably the most unhappy pope who ever lived. He hated the luxury of the Vatican and had no ability or interest in ruling men like a monarch. The common people, however, were overjoyed, as Chamberlin tells us on page 88-84,

“The election of a simple good man, who was taken from his cave to mount the most splendid throne in Europe, had first astonished and then delighted Christians. It seemed as though they were witnessing the working out of those recent prophecies which foretold a new dispensation, when the meek would rule the mighty. Such a pope as Celestine might perhaps have found a place in the earlier centuries of the church, before the machinery of government dwarfed the men who had built it. In the thirteenth century he was an anachronism, as out of place as a first-century martyr would have been in the ruins of the Coliseum. . . .

“Celestine was in an impossible position. On one side were the men to whom he had given a new order and a new hope, exhorting him to begin the reign of love. On another were the tough and cynical papal bureaucrats who were either employing him for their own ends or were attempting to force his whole way of life into an alien mold.”

Then they were given opportunity to regain the simplicity and rule of love through Peter Marone Pope Celestine V. But he was like a virgin in a brothel and lasted only 107 days as pope from Aug. 29 to Dec. 13, 1294. Chamberlin tells us on page 86,

“Pale, trembling, but for once resolute, the old man read a prepared deed of renunciation that he and Gaetani [who later became Boniface VIII] had drawn up. In the astonished silence that followed, he slowly descended the steps from the throne, and with his own hands stripped himself of the gorgeous robes that symbolized for him not power, but imprisonment. He left the chamber, then returned a few moments later, clad in his own familiar coarse garments.

So ended the great experiment in love. The majority of the cardinals accepted the decision with relief, even if none were so unwise as Gaetani as to accuse the Holy Ghost of deceit. . . .

“Ten days after Celestine’s abdication, the conclave met and, within twenty-four hours, elected Benedict Gaetani. He took the name of Boniface VIII.”

Boniface VIII came to power on Dec. 24, 1294 after the resignation of Celestine V on Dec. 13th. There could hardly have been a greater contrast between the two popes. After Celestine abdicated, the new Pope soon realized that he could never be as popular with the people as their beloved hermit, Peter Morone. He thought of Peter as a potential threat to his pontificate. Chamberlin says on page 89,

“Already rumors were circulating that he (Boniface) had brought pressure to bear upon Celestine [to abdicate], that he was a usurper. Now he learned that Celestine was at large, free to attract a rebellious following if he chose. He immediately gave orders that the old man was to be arrested and brought back to Rome, by force if need be. Celestine was warned and, with remarkable courage and agility for a man of his age, left Monte Morone in the depths of winter and began wandering in the remoter mountains, keeping just ahead of the papal officials seeking him. A monk who had remained in the cell to break the news to Boniface’s enraged and fearful soldiers paid for his devotion with his life.

“It was an ominous opening to a new pontificate, but after his initial reaction, Boniface was not unduly troubled. It could only be a question of time before somebody betrayed Celestine, and meanwhile there was his own coronation to be celebrated with all the pomp that was dear to him. Celestine had ridden to his coronation mounted on an ass—to some, an almost blasphemous symbolism. He, Boniface, would ride the Roman emperor he resembled, displaying himself for the adoration of the tumultuous Romans.”

Peter (Celestine) soon realized that he would have to leave Italy to avoid capture. He boarded a ship bound for Greece, but the ship was blown back by a storm and wrecked on the Italian shore. Celestine himself survived the shipwreck, but his enthusiastic admirers recognized him and soon proclaimed him to be the true pope. The troops thus found him and arrested him. When brought before Boniface, the hermit told him, “You have entered like a fox—you will reign like a lion—and you will die like a dog.” (p. 93)

“His last home was to be in the isolated fortress of Fumone, used in the past for the more important prisoners of state. The imprisonment was in fact an unwitting kindness, and when Celestine saw the tiny cell prepared for him, he rejoiced; it resembled closely enough his preferred type of home. . . .

“Certainly, Celestine did not long survive imprisonment, dying some ten months afterward to the expected accompaniment of rumors of murder. His bones were piously cherished, among them, the skull with a hole in it, together with the nail that was supposed to have been driven into it. It is wholly unlikely that Boniface would have employed such a crude means to destroy a man whom unaided nature would soon remove from the world. But the manufacture and cherishing of such a macabre story was evidence enough of the hatred which Pope Boniface VIII had inspired within a few months of his coronation.”

Later, on page 95 Chamberlin writes,

“Celestine’s tragedy had underlined the fact that a spiritual pope was an anomaly—the power to be exercised was the same type as that exercised by any other monarch.”

He says, in effect, that Celestine V was the first “good” pope in many centuries. Good popes were very rare.

At the present time, history has yet to determine the nature of Pope Francis’ reign. Likewise, we have yet to see how his Jubilee declaration may affect or reflect world events. We may hope, however, that this Jubilee foreshadows or prophesies of good things to come.

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Category: News Commentary
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones