Year of Mercy begins

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In April, Pope Francis declared that a Jubilee Year of Mercy be observed from the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, to the solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 20, 2016.

The pope opened the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome Dec. 8, and Dec. 13 he opened the Holy Door of his cathedral in Rome, St. John Lateran Basilica.

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde joined with the pope and his brother bishops around the world Dec. 13 by opening the Holy Door at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

The ceremony, before the 11 a.m. Mass, began in the gym of the St. Thomas More Cathedral School, where parishioners joined the bishop and concelebrants Fathers Robert J. Rippy, rector, and John Cregan, retired pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria all dressed in rose vestments for Gaudete Sunday. The St. Thomas More Choir, directed by Rick Gibala, sang hymns, and the Knights of Columbus honor guard prepared led the procession to the cathedral.

The bishop lit incense in a censer and said, "The mercy of the Father, the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all."

The faithful answered, "And with your spirit."

The bishop read Pope Francis' "Bull Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy" declaring the Year of Mercy, after which he processed from the school to the front door of the cathedral.

At the door, the bishop said, "Open the gates of justice, we shall enter and give thanks to the Lord."

As the doors were opened, the the bishop said, "This is the Lord's gate: Let us enter through it and obtain mercy and forgiveness."

The choir chanted, "I am the gate, says the Lord; whoever enters through me will be saved; he will enter and go out and find pasture."

The bishop and the congregation entered through the door to the sanctuary.

Before the opening prayer, the bishop walked through the sanctuary and sprinkled holy water to bless the congregation as part of the Year of Mercy celebration.

Bishop Loverde's homily was on the theme of rejoicing. He said that was fitting for the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday.

The bishop said that the season of Advent reminds us that we rejoice because Our Savior is coming. And there's another reason to rejoice this day - the opening of the Door of Mercy.

"This door is a sign and symbol of Christ Jesus and of the Father's mercy," he said.

The day marked another occasion deserving joy and celebration - the re-opening of the cathedral following months of renovation.

"This renovation makes more evident that this is the dwelling place of God, the place where mercy incarnate abides in the tabernacle, the place where the greatest act of mercy is repeated over and over: the renewal of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and of His resurrection in each Mass, the place where divine mercy is experienced in the sacrament of penance," said the bishop.

After Mass, people lingered, to examine the renovated cathedral that included new Stations of the Cross and refinished pews. The terrazzo floor was polished, and paneling on the walls was replaced with granite. The upper walls were refinished and painted.

A new console for the cathedral pipe organ was built to replace the heavily used 44-year-old console.

The bishop's thoughts on the renovation were echoed by parishioners Michael and Cynthia Mooney.

"I don't think it could have been done any better," said Michael. "It looks like a cathedral now."

Cynthia, who is in the construction business, said the renovations were well done.

"The color palettes chosen were excellent," she said.

Michael also commented on the Year of Mercy, saying that it brings new focus on mercy in our daily lives.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015