By Steve Neill, Of The Catholic Virginian

As the Jubilee Year of Mercy is about to close by Pope Francis on Nov. 20, the two Holy Doors in the Diocese of Richmond will officially be closed on Sunday, Nov. 13.

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo officiated at the opening of the Holy Door at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Dec. 20, 2015.

Then on Palm Sunday of this year he blessed the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Norfolk.

The Holy Door at the Cathedral and the Basilica were the main entrance doors through which parishioners and visitors pass for worship.

Bishop DiLorenzo’s blessing of the Holy Doors came following Pope Francis’s proclamation of the Jubilee Year of Mercy which opened on Dec. 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The pope will close the worldwide celebration of the Jubilee Year on Nov. 20.

During his visit to the Basilica for the Palm Sunday liturgy, Bishop DiLorenzo spoke of the forgiveness and mercy shown by members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. after a stranger they had welcomed into their Bible study killed almost everyone in the classroom.

Instead of being angry and seeking revenge, the pastor and members of the African American congregation showed mercy and expressed forgiveness even though they were grieving over the tragic killings of loved ones. Their gesture was a sign of their Christian faith, the Bishop said.

Bishop DiLorenzo suggested that other Christians model the same attitude of mercy and forgiveness which comes from the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus.

“Jesus gave us love, mercy and forgiveness,” he said, adding that he sees the same love, mercy and forgiveness from Basilica parishioners who show genuine welcome to others.

The idea of a jubilee year comes from the Old Testament, said Msgr. William H. Carr, pastor of St. Bridget Parish in Richmond.

St. Bridget’s hosted a seminar on Oct. 1 with the title “Mercy and Healing in the Jubilee Year.”

Tracing the Biblical roots of the concept of a Jubilee Year, Msgr. Carr said such a celebration was held every 50 years.

“It began on the day of Atonement and a jubilee was a special time of liberty,” he explained.

“Pope Francis thinks that the world is in such a need that we cannot wait for 50 years and he calls this the extraordinary jubilee,” Msgr. Carr told participants at the recent seminar.

In the early days of the Old Testament, the proclamation helped many people in the early days since property taken by others for unpaid debts would have to be returned, Msgr. Carr explained.

“In that year there was no planting, no reaping so even the land was free from work,” he said.

Slaves and prisoners were set free. Debts were canceled and everyone could start over again.

In reference to the concept of a Holy Door, Msgr. Carr said the door is a symbol for the jubilee of mercy. The Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, blessed by Pope Francis at the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, is one in which all Popes and pilgrims have entered.

“Pope Francis wants the Church to recover its joy, a joy he sees as robbed by controversy within,” Msgr. Carr said.

“He speaks of a Church which welcomes all and refuses no one, just like Jesus.”

The sacrament of reconciliation can be seen as a holy door in which penitents seek forgiveness. While some are reluctant to account for their sins, Msgr. Carr says Jesus welcomes sinners through the sacrament.

“It is a door to mercy where our loving Father waits with open arms,” he asserted.

“Once we come to our senses and have the humility to say out loud that we are sinners, His divine mercy floods into our hearts and souls.”

The closing of the Holy Door at the Cathedral will be celebrated by Msgr. Mark Richard Lane, Vicar General of the Diocese, at the 9 a.m. Mass Nov. 13.

Father James Curran, pastor of the Basilica parish, will officiate at the Holy Door’s closing the same day at the 11 a.m. Mass.

According to Edie Jeter, who handled arrangements for parish or school pilgrimages to the Cathedral during the Jubilee Year, there were many groups which came for a tour and celebration of the sacraments.

“We expressly customized each tour,” Mrs. Jeter, Diocesan Archivist, said, pointing out that different groups had a variety of reasons for wanting to come to the Cathedral. Some pilgrimages were led by a priest who presided at Mass or heard confessions within the Cathedral.

Visitors included students from St. Edward-Epiphany School in Richmond, the Confirmation class from St. Joseph’s Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel in Columbia, and the 11th grade class from Peninsula Catholic High School in Newport News.

Father David Sharland, campus minister for the Virginia Tech Catholic Community in Blacksburg, led a group of 19 students for a pilgrimage to the Cathedral Oct. 29.

The pilgrims left Saturday morning at 7 and traveled three and a half hours to the Cathedral.

“They wanted to pass through the Holy Doors and then have prayer and reflection on mercy and how it affects our lives,” Father Sharland told The Catholic Virginian.

The priest heard confessions and then celebrated Mass at the Cathedral.

“I had a lot of positive feedback from the students who were glad they had come,” he said.