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The interior renewal of man

· On 9 May 1973 Paul VI announces Holy Year for 1975 ·

The following is a translation of Pope Paul VI's address at the General Audience in St Peter's Square on 9 May 1973.

Today there is something we would like to tell you, something which we believe is important for the spiritual life of the Church. It is this: after having prayed and meditated, we have decided to celebrate in 1975 a Holy Year, when the interval of 25 years fixed by our predecessor Paul II in the Papal Bull Ineffabilis Providentia of 17 April 1470 will have expired.

The Holy Year, which in canonical language is known as the “Jubilee”, meant in the biblical tradition of the Old Testament a year of special public observance, with abstention from normal work, a return to the original distribution of land, the cancellation of existing debts and the freeing of Hebrew slaves (cf. Lev 25:8 ff).

In the history of the Church, as you know, the Jubilee was instituted by Boniface VIII in the year 1300, for a purely spiritual purpose. It consisted in making a penitential pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Dante was among those who took part in it and he gives a description of the crowds thronging the city of Rome (cf. Inferno 18:28-23). Later, in 1500, there was added to the Jubilee the opening of the Holy Doors of the Basilicas which were to be visited. This was intended not only to facilitate the influx of penitents but also to symbolize easier access to divine mercy through the gaining of the jubilee indulgence.

We have asked ourself if such a tradition should be continued in our times, which are so different from times gone by and so conditioned both by the style of religion given to ecclesial life by the recent Council and by the practical lack of interest of many parts of the modern world in the ritual expression of other centuries. We have immediately however been convinced that the celebration of the Holy Year not only can be consistently fitted in with the spiritual line adopted by the Council itself – which it is our responsibility to develop faithfully – but also can very well be harmonized with and contribute to the tireless and loving efforts being made by the Church to meet the moral needs of our time, to interpret its deepest aspirations and to accept honestly certain forms of its preferred external manifestations.

In view of the variety of purposes it is necessary to stress what is the essential concept of the Holy Year. It is the interior renewal of man: of the man who thinks and who in his thought has lost the certainty of truth; of the man who works and who in his work has realized that he is so extroverted that he no longer fully possesses communication with himself; of the man who enjoys life and who so amuses himself and has so many exciting ways to gain pleasurable experience that he soon feels bored and disillusioned. Man must be renewed from within. This is what the Gospel calls conversion, penance and a change of heart. It is the process of self-rebirth. It is simple, like a clear and courageous act of conscience and at the same time complex, like a long, instructive and reforming apprenticeship. It is also a moment of grace, and one usually does not obtain grace without bowing one's head. And we do not think we err in detecting in modern man profound dissatisfaction, satiety coupled with insufficiency, unhappiness produced by false formulas for happiness, with which he is intoxicated, and dismay at not knowing how to enjoy the thousand and one pleasures that civilization offers him in abundance. In other words, man needs and interior renewal such as that hoped for by the Council.

Now the Holy Year is oriented precisely to this personal and interior renewal, which under certain aspects is also exterior. It is an easy and at the same time extraordinary therapy which should bring spiritual well-being to every conscience and indirectly, at least to some extent, to the attitude of society. This is the general theme of the next Holy Year, which is also centred upon another special theme that is oriented to practical living: reconciliation.

The term “reconciliation” evokes the opposite concept of a break. What break would we have to mend in order to reach that reconciliation which is the condition for the desired renewal of the jubilee? What break? But is it not perhaps enough to use this word reconciliation, which involves a whole programme, to realize that our life is disturbed by too many breaks, too much disharmony, too much disorder to be able to enjoy the gifts of personal and collective life according to their ideal finality? We need above all to re-establish a genuine, vital and happy relationship with God, to be reconciled with him in humility and love, so that from this first basic harmony the whole world of our experience may express a need and acquire a virtue of reconciliation in charity and justice with men, to whom we immediately give the new title of “brothers”. Moreover, reconciliation takes place in other vast and very real areas: within the ecclesial community itself, in society, in the relations among nations, in ecumenism, in the sphere of peace and so forth. If God permits us to celebrate the Holy Year, it will have many things to tell us in this regard.

Let us now limit ourselves to pointing out an important aspect of the structure of the next Holy Year. According to the centuries-old custom, the Holy Year has its focal point in Rome. And it will still be so, but with this innovation. The conditions prescribed for acquiring special spiritual benefits will this time be anticipated and granted to the local Churches, so that the whole Church spread throughout the world may immediately be able to profit from this great occasion of renewal and reconciliation. In this way the whole Church will be better able to prepare for the climax and conclusion of the Holy Year, which will be celebrated in Rome in the year 1975, and which will give to the traditional pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles its traditional meaning for those who are able and with to make the pilgrimage. And this important and salutary spiritual and penitential movement, which involves the entire Church and which will be accompanied by the granting of special indulgences, will begin on the coming feast of Pentecost, 10 June. On former occasions, the extension of the Holy Year came after its celebration in Rome; now this extension will precede the celebration. Everyone can now see how this innovation also includes an intention of honouring with more evident and effective communion the local Churches which are living members of the one universal Church of Christ.

This will suffice for the present. But by the grace of God we shall have many other things to say on this matter. May our Apostolic Blessing be with all of you. (OSE edition, 17 May 1973).

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