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The practice of a jubilee year has ancient roots in the Jewish tradition and evidence for it can be found in the Old Testament (for example, see Leviticus 25). The jubilee year was called every fifty years and was a time for forgiveness. It stood as a reminder of God's providence and mercy. The dedication of a year for this emphasis provided the community with a time to come back into right relationship with one another and with God. As the practice of the jubilee year was adopted into the Catholic Church, these themes of mercy, forgiveness, and solidarity continued.
The Jubilee of Mercy that Pope Francis has called, from December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016, is an Extraordinary Jubilee. This designation as an "Extraordinary Jubilee" sets it apart from the ordinary cycle of jubilees, or holy years, which are called every 25 years in the Catholic Church. By calling for a holy year outside of the normal cycle, a particular event or theme is emphasized. For example, Pope Francis called this particular Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy to direct our attention and actions "on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father's actions in our lives . . . a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective"
"Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favourable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation. May the Mother of God open our eyes, so that we may comprehend the task to which we have been called; and may she obtain for us the grace to experience this Jubilee of Mercy as faithful and fruitful witnesses of Christ."
"So many people, including young people, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives. Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace... Pope Francis. "