Year of Prayer and the Jubilee Year

Have You Heard About the Year of Prayer?
Are You Looking Forward to the Jubilee Year?

By Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney

“At the Angelus (on Jan. 21, 2024), Pope Francis announce(d) a “Year of Prayer” ahead of the upcoming Jubilee, and invites the faithful to pray for Christian unity and for peace throughout the world.”

Pope Francis’ Year of Prayer announcement

The brief Catholic News Agency story quoted above goes on to say: “Pope Francis has inaugurated a Year of Prayer ahead of the 2025 Jubilee, calling on the faithful “to intensify prayer to prepare us to live well this event of grace and to experience the power of God’s hope.” In remarks after the Angelus on Sunday, the Holy Father explained that the Year of Prayer is dedicated “to rediscovering the great value and absolute need for prayer, prayer in personal life, in the life of the Church, prayer in the world. He added that the Dicastery for Evangelization will be preparing materials to assist in celebrating the Year.


I hope that many readers, especially those who follow “Catholic news,” are already aware of the Holy Father’s announcement of a Year of Prayer. For those who may be hearing about it for the first time, perhaps we can look at it from the “glass (more than) half full” perspective, realizing that we still have eight months to “catch up,” be aware of, and participate in the Year of Prayer.


As our Holy Father noted in his Angelus Message, the Dicastery for Evangelization has prepared materials to accompany us in our prayerful preparation for the Jubilee. The Dicastery issued the following “Press Release” on Feb. 21, 2024:

“Teach us to Pray,” the handbook for the Year of Prayer, is available online.

On the occasion of the Year of Prayer, the Dicastery for Evangelization has made available a handbook to accompany Christian communities and individual believers on the path of preparation for the Jubilee 2025.

The handbook “Teach us to Pray,” the title of which is taken from the eleventh chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Lk 11:1), is available online and can be downloaded free of charge from the website in digital version. The booklet, inspired by the Magisterium of Pope Francis, is intended to be an invitation to intensify prayer as a personal dialogue with God, to lead one to reflect on one’s faith, on one’s commitment in today’s world, in the different spheres in which one is called to live. It is intended to offer reflections, indications and advice on how to live dialogue with the Lord more fully in relationship with others. The handbook is composed of sections dedicated to prayer in the parish community and in the family community, and others dedicated to young people, cloistered communities, catechesis, and spiritual retreats.

The text is available for download on the Jubilee website.

While we may be a little “late” in introducing or learning about the Year of Prayer, it is important to realize the reason why the Holy Father has offered this invitation: we are preparing for a “Jubilee Year” in 2025. The Introduction to the “Teach us to Pray” handbook states:

“As we move closer to the Jubilee of 2025, Pope Francis wants 2024 to be dedicated to prayer. Thus, he is inviting the whole Church to a time of intense commitment in preparation for the Opening of the Holy Door. The celebration of a Holy Year has its earliest origins in the Jewish tradition of the jubilee (yobel) as a time of forgiveness and reconciliation. Since the 1300s, this has been a special time to meditate on the great gift of divine mercy that always awaits us, as well as the importance of inner conversion. Both are necessary to be able to live out the spiritual gifts lavished on pilgrims during a Holy Year, and to renew the bond that unites all who are baptized as brothers and sisters in Christ with all of humanity, in that everyone is loved by God.”

Some readers may be familiar with the Biblical “roots” of a “Jubilee Year,” and some may be familiar with the Catholic Church’s tradition of marking “ordinary” and “extraordinary” Jubilee (or “Holy”) Years. After his election in 2013, Pope Francis invited the Church to live an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2015. The (ordinary) Jubilee Year of Hope in 2025 will be his second as pontiff. Other readers may be asking the question, “So, what exactly is a Jubilee?” I found an article online that does a good job of answering that question:

“… So what exactly is a Jubilee?

The idea of Jubilee comes from the Old Testament. According to the Book of Leviticus (25:8-13) a Jubilee year was to be celebrated every 50 years, during which slaves were to be freed, debts were to be forgiven, and the land was to rest.

These Jubilee years prevented the concentration of wealth and the perpetual enslavement of individuals due to debt. They also symbolized a time of renewal, freedom, and equality within the community, underscoring principles of justice, compassion, and stewardship of the land. They were like a yearlong Sabbath — a time of God’s favour and a moment of salvation.

In the Catholic Church, a Jubilee or “Holy Year” is a special year of grace. These special years are traditionally intended to help the faithful focus on forgiveness, reconciliation, and pilgrimage. They also offer the opportunity to receive plenary indulgences.

The first Jubilee was declared by Pope Boniface VIII in the year 1300 to mark the beginning of that century. He later declared that a Jubilee would be celebrated every 100 years. In 1470 Pope Paul II increased the frequency of Jubilee Years to 50 years. Five years later, Pope Sixtus IV made them even more frequent, making Jubilee Years a regular occurrence every 25 years.”

In the coming weeks and months, I will be working with Diocesan Leaders to explore ways in which we can promote and invite the faithful throughout our diocese to (both) participate in the Year of Prayer and prepare for the Jubilee Year of 2025. Stay tuned for more details…

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