In honor of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, a special exposition of the relics of St. Padre Pio (Pio of Pietrelcina) and St. Leopold Mandic will be on display in Rome from Feb. 3 to Feb. 11 as Lent gets underway. The relics will travel all over Rome and its environs, from the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls on Feb. 3-4, to the Jubilee Church San Salvatore in Lauro on Feb. 4-5, to St. Peter’s Basilica from Feb. 6-11.
Padre Pio and Leopold are commonly recognized as holy men who served and dispensed the mercy of God with special fervor. St. Leopold, a Croatian who lived most of his life in Padua, became renowned for his dedication to the confessional and the administering of God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When his fellow Capuchin Franciscans accused him of leniency, St. Leopold is said to have remarked, “Should the Crucified blame me for being lenient, I would answer Him: Lord, you gave me this bad example. I have not yet reached the folly of your having died for souls.”
Another Capuchin dedicated to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Padre Pio became known all around the world for his stigmata, his physical manifestation of the crucifixion wounds of Jesus. Rumored to have additional gifts, including bilocation and the reading of hearts, the faithful flocked to Padre Pio as a pilgrimage site in his own right, and he sometimes spent as many as 16 hours a day in the confessional.
The relics of these two men, saints of the confessional and missionaries of the mercy of God, will be returned to their home dioceses on Feb. 11.
The relic display is just one many special events that the Vatican is holding during the Year of Mercy to the benefit of the expected millions of pilgrims to the Eternal City. Since the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy Dec. 8, Rome already has welcomed nearly 1.4 million visitors to participate in events geared toward the Holy Year — and 40 percent of them had traveled from abroad.
In a special way, it is these pilgrims to whom Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization — the dicastery charged with organizing and implementing the jubilee year — and Pope Francis wish to reach out, welcoming them to the Eternal City and providing them with unique opportunities to seek the mercy of God. During a press conference at the Vatican Jan. 29, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, addressed additional events.
Throughout the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis plans to perform a corporal work of mercy on one Friday each month. The first of these “Mercy Fridays” took place on Dec. 18 when Pope Francis opened the Door of Charity at a homeless shelter in Rome, Don Luigi di Liegro, and celebrated Mass. On Jan. 15, the Holy Father visited two nursing homes, one which houses only 33 people and one which serves only six. These six residents live there with their families, and a staff helps the family members to care for those in a persistent vegetative state. Pope Francis took the opportunity to speak briefly with each resident on these surprise visits. According to the Vatican, Pope Francis chose these locations to “highlight … the value and dignity of life in every situation.”
Extra general audiences on Saturday
In an effort to be able to greet more pilgrims who come to Rome, Pope Francis added an additional monthly general monthly general audience to his schedule, which will be held in addition to the weekly audience each Wednesday. The inaugural jubilee audience was held in St. Peter’s Square on Jan. 30. An estimated 30,000 people were in attendance, which is a marked difference from the average attendance of the Wednesday audiences in 2015, which was just under 15,000, according to the Prefecture of the Papal Household.
At the first of these jubilee audiences, Pope Francis called on all Christians to recognize the close link between mercy and mission, and encouraged Christians to share the Gospel and the joy that comes with the mercy of God, which he described as “the concrete sign that we have met Jesus.”
Missionaries of Mercy
On Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10, Pope Francis will officially commission the missionaries of mercy, and send them out all over the world. As Archbishop Fisichella described, these men are being charged by Pope Francis “to be privileged witnesses in their respective Churches of the extraordinariness of this Jubilee event.” Originally, there were going to be about 800 of these missionaries, but that number has swelled to around 1,071, according to organizers. These missionaries will be sent out to the whole world, to administer God’s mercy in a special way. They are even being granted the faculty to remit certain sins, the forgiveness of which are typically reserved to the Holy See. These missionaries will come from all over the world, and include priests of Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.
Reportedly around 700 of these priests will be present in Rome for the commissioning and sending-forth on Ash Wednesday. Only these priests will concelebrate with the pope at the Ash Wednesday Mass on Feb. 10.
24 Hours for the Lord
On March 4-5, Pope Francis will kick off and lead a celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration, and has invited and encouraged churches all over the world to join.
Called “24 Hours for the Lord,” this is the third annual celebration of the event. The event begins with a penance service celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica on the evening of March 4. Parishes, communities, and dioceses throughout the world will be joining in, dedicating an entire day to the forgiveness of sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as well as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.