Time for a change: Holy years proclaimed to encourage spiritual renewal

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March 14, 2015

Pope Francis arrives to lead Lenten penance service in St. Peter's Basilica

Pope Francis arrives to lead a Lenten penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 13. During the service the pope announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, until Nov. 20, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A holy year as a time of spiritual renewal has its biblical roots in the jubilees observed by the Jewish people at 50-year intervals, when debts were pardoned and slaves were freed.

The term “jubilee” itself comes from the Hebrew word “yobel,” meaning a ram’s horn, which was used to make the trumpet that signaled the beginning of this time of forgiveness.

For the Catholic Church, a holy year remains a time of great spiritual significance, and emphasis is placed on the examination of conscience and conversion, the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, concrete acts of solidarity and initiatives to restore justice.

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