Bishop Richard F. Stika proclaimed the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Knoxville during the Rite of Introduction at the Our Lady of the Mountains chapel at the Chancery on Dec. 8.
“Dear beloved brothers and sisters, with eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful face, the Holy Father, on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, has inaugurated an Extraordinary Jubilee, thus opening to us and to all men and women the door of God’s mercy”, Bishop Stika recited.
“In communion with the universal Church, this celebration marks the solemn beginning of the Holy Year in our diocesan Church; a prelude to the profound experience of grace and reconciliation that awaits us this year.”
Following the Opening Rite, the Bishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Father David Boettner, Father Joe Reed, and Father Arthur Torres led a procession of more than 50 worshipers to the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to officially open the Holy Door.
Earlier in the day, Pope Francis inaugurated the beginning of the Year of Mercy with the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Other churches in the Diocese of Knoxville with Holy Doors are: The Church of Divine Mercy in Knoxville, the Basilica of Sts. Peter & Paul in Chattanooga, and St. Mary Church in Johnson City.
Following the Holy Door opening, Bishop Stika celebrated Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral to mark the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
“Pope Francis has given us a tremendous gift this year, it begins today.. he’s given us an extraordinary gift, a year of mercy. It’s not a mercy that comes from him, but it’s a mercy that comes from God and Jesus,” Bishop Stika said in his homily.
“The invitation that comes to us, through this Holy Year, is what are you going to do about it?”
The Bishop also used his homily to denounce bigotry– especially recent attempts to categorize all Muslims as threats to America.
“Last night I was so irritated to see a certain person running for president say that we should not allow Muslims into our country. In the 1850s and 1860s there was a group in the United States called the No Nothings who burnt down Catholic Churches,” the bishop said.
“Ah, those Muslims, they’re evil, aren’t they? Just like Oklahoma City, the man who blew up that federal building was a Catholic. Or how about those people who strung-up African-Americans because of the color of their skin? They were Christian. Remember all those children killed right before Christmas in Connecticut? The killer wasn’t Muslim. He was evil and he was mentally sick.
“You see, when we begin pointing fingers and saying, ‘you’re a greater sinner than I, then there is something wrong with our hearts. That is why the pope has given us this tremendous gift, to look into the lives that we live. People who are weak and sinful, we might not do these dramatic things, destroying the lives of (other people), but when you talk ill of another, when you gossip about another, when you misjudge another– you destroy one life and that life is precious in the eyes of God.
“So my invitation to you is to quote other people– like St. John Paul II, (who said) “be not afraid”… or Mother Teresa, she said, “do something beautiful for God, every day”.
Merciful action, the Bishop said, is what Catholics are called to during the Jubilee Year of Mercy– which concludes on Nov. 20, 2016.
For more on information on Year of Mercy celebrations in the Diocese of Knoxville, please click here to learn more.