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When is a Door Not Just a Door? When It’s a “Holy Door”


[When images emerged of Pope Francis Opening the Holy Door in Bangui during his visit to Africa, the questions being asked: “What is a Holy Door? Why do we do this? What is the point?” Aleteia seeks to answer your questions, here. – Ed]

What is a Holy Door?

A Porta Sancta (Holy Door) is a special door in a cathedral or basilica that is only opened during Jubilee Years. Traditionally, the Holy Door is the one in St. Peter’s Basilica. Following a Jubilee Year, it is sealed with brick and mortar and not opened until the next Jubilee Year. Workers have already begun the process of Unwalling the Holy Door at Saint Peter’s Basilica for next week’s ceremony.

When is a Holy Door opened?

Usually, this should be every 25 years. Pius XII opened the door in 1950 and Paul VI in 1975, but St. John Paul II opened it in early, in 1983, and again in 2000. It may also be opened during “extraordinary” years, as was the case in 1983 and again this year. Pope Francis will inaugurate the 2016 Jubilee Year of Mercy by opening the door on December 8th, 2015. It will remain open for the entire Year, closing again on November 20, 2016. The date of December 8th was chosen because it is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and marks the fiftieth anniversary of closing of the Second Vatican Council.

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