Q. During Holy Years, I know that the Vatican has a special Holy Door that is opened and closed to mark the beginning and ending of the special year. Do dioceses also have a Holy Door that is opened and closed for such an occasion?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
During Holy Years, the pope opens a special door at St. Peter’s on Christmas Eve. Later, he opens similar doors at the other papal basilicas in Rome: St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outside the Walls. These doors represent our Savior, who said, in the Gospel, “I am the door” (Jn 10:9, RSV).
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, a revered pilgrimage destination, has been granted the gift of a holy door, together with the church of Ars-sur-Formans, in France. The Basilica of Notre Dame, in Quebec, Canada, the first American cathedral north of Mexico, was granted a similar privilege, and this year will celebrate its 350th anniversary, which coincides with the Extraordinary Jubilee, a “Jubilee of Mercy,” which Pope Francis announced on March 13. The Holy Year will commence on December 8, 2015.
Pope Boniface VIII began the custom of Holy Years in 1300. He believed the Church should celebrate them once a century. Before long, the custom changed so every Catholic might have the opportunity to celebrate a Jubilee Year in her or his lifetime. The years are ordinarily observed four times in a century, but the pontiff may declare special years if he wishes.