Bishop Richard F. Stika lifted the veil on the Jubilee of Mercy in the Diocese of Knoxville on Dec. 6 as he celebrated Mass at the Church of Divine Mercy in Knoxville, where he introduced the special year established by Pope Francis.
The Jubilee of Mercy officially begins on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, and continues through the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 20, 2016. Pope Francis will begin the year by opening the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. The pontiff said the Holy Door will become a “Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God, who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.”
The Vatican has designated three Holy Doors in the Diocese of Knoxville that will be opened on Dec. 8 to begin the Jubilee of Mercy. Those doors are at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga, and at St. Mary Church in Johnson City.
Pope Francis has said it will be a special, holy year of remission of sins and universal pardon, focusing particularly on God’s forgiveness and mercy.
In his homily, Bishop Stika informed the Vietnamese Catholic community at Divine Mercy that an indulgence will be extended to all Catholics during the Jubilee of Mercy if they pray for the intentions of Pope Francis, receive the sacrament of reconciliation, and receive the holy Eucharist.
Bishop Stika said it has been his privilege during his life to have met one saint, John Paul II, who had a special devotion to divine mercy; one blessed, Mother Teresa of Calcutta; and one individual he hopes will soon be canonized, Archbishop Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan of Vietnam.
“If you look at those three individuals, you see that precious gift of mercy,” Bishop Stika said. “In the year 2000, St. John Paul prayed for the mercy of God on individuals in the Church who have sinned. And Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, in her life, always talked about how in each person we see, no matter who they are or what their background is, we must see Jesus.
“And in knowing the story of Archbishop Van Thuan, we see a person who, even though he was in prison in horrible conditions, he forgave those who held him captive. And do you know what that secret ingredient is that allows the three of them to live lives of holiness? Jesus, I trust in you.”
Bishop Stika then recalled how the leadership in the young Vietnamese Catholic community in the diocese approached him about establishing a parish, which would be called Divine Mercy.
“You see, it’s the Holy Spirit. So now we have this magnificent community under the patronage of our foundress. And for those of you who are members of this parish, and also for those who visit today, there’s a special obligation that you have. And that’s mercy. … All of us, we’re people of mercy.”
Just before Mass, about 350 members of Divine Mercy and its pastor, Father Hoan Dinh, processed from the church and around its West Knoxville campus to mark the Jubilee of Mercy. They then processed into the church with Bishop Stika to begin Mass.