Catholic Church sets forgiving example for governments
While the new millennium may find many people prepared for the worst, a number of devoted students and faculty on Notre Dame and Saint Mary's campuses will mark the Great Jubilee with celebration and reconciliation.
The Jubilee concept dates back to the days of the Old Testament, when every 50 years was called a Jubilee Year. Under this tradition, crops were not harvested for the entire year, debts were forgiven and slaves and prisoners were released. Jubilee celebrations also included a feast and property returns to previous owners.
The Catholic Church revived Jubilee celebrations in 1300. The upcoming Great Jubilee year in particular will reflect many of the same ideas practiced by the Hebrews of the Old Testament.
According to Frank Santoni, coordinator of special projects for Campus Ministry, the year 2000 Jubilee will focus on four main themes: letting the land lie fallow, answering the call to forgiveness, holding a great Eucharistic feast and proclaiming liberty and freedom.
President Bill Clinton announced that the United States will forgive all debt owed by 36 of the world's poorest countries, Santoni said. The announcement came in part from pressure by churches, international organizations and a call by Pope John II for international debt relief.
"Restoring justice and participating in acts of forgiveness are key Jubilee themes," said Keith Egan, professor of theology at Saint Mary's and Notre Dame. "The pope has called upon wealthy nations to forgive the crushing international debts that plague many third world countries."
Egan noted that John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter, "On the Coming of the Third Millennium," which theology faculty and students have studied in preparation for the new year, Egan said.
"Jesus has come to bring good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind [and] freedom to the oppressed," said Egan.
Notre Dame began on-campus activities in preparation for the Great Jubilee last spring. A special Holy Year Door was designated at the Basilica. The door, at a side, front entrance of the Basilica, is locked and will not be opened until a special ceremony on Christmas Eve.
The door stands as a symbol of Christ, who is the portal to eternal life, said Father Peter Rocca, rector of Sacred Heart Basilica, Those celebrating the Great Jubilee, he said, should use their experience in conjunction with prayer, confession, celebration of the Eucharist and works of charity.
At Saint Mary's, the main door at Le Mans Hall, which also acts as a Holy Year Door, has remained sealed since last fall. Saint Mary's president Marilou Eldred believes Saint Mary's students are called to become Jubilee women and has promoted the notion since her arrival at the College more than two years ago.
Campus groups including ND Right to Life, Global Health Initiative and Pax Christi have worked with Campus Ministry and the Center for Social Concerns to plan various events leading up to and during the Jubilee year.
"The year 2000 is not just another year on the calendar like any other," Santoni said. "It's a special chance to re-energize our faith lives and celebrate the love God has for each of us through existing relationships … and through new ones with those in need."
Santoni said prayer services, rallies and social action campaigns will occur through out the spring and fall semesters of 2000.
"[The] Jubilee is about … restoring your view to a final end," said Pax Christi member and Notre Dame student Sheila McCarthy, who emphasized the role of the Jubilee in restoring relationships and overcoming apathy toward problems that face humanity.
More details about the Great Jubilee and how the Catholic Church is celebrating it can be found at www.nccbuscc.org/jubilee , which provides online information from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States Catholic Conference.
All News Stories for Wednesday, December 8, 1999