The Year of Mercy came to an end in the Diocese of East Anglia on Sunday November 20 when Bishop Alan Hopes closed the Holy Door of Mercy at St John the Baptist Cathedral in Norwich as Pope Francis also closed the Holy Door at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
A second Holy Door was closed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham in North Norfolk. Both were opened on December 13 last year, at the start of the Year of Mercy.
In a pastoral message delivered to the 650-strong congregation at the Cathedral, and also read out at Catholic churches across East Anglia, Bishop Alan said: “The closing of the Holy Doors of Mercy across the world does not mean that we can forget about the real challenges this year has set us!
“Today prompts us to reflect on how we might keep those doors open in our own lives – how we can go on receiving God’s forging love – how we might continue to extend that mercy and love to our neighbours. In doing so we shall keep alive the vision that Pope Francis has of a Church brimming over with god’s love and mercy. For this is the ongoing work of evangelisation – that of ourselves and of the wider community.”
As a reminder of the Year, families from each parish across the diocese were invited to the Mass in Norwich and were given Mercy candles to take back with them to be lit throughout Advent and Christmas.
“A real fruit of this year, has been a rediscovery and a fresh application of the seven works and the seven spiritual acts of mercy,” said Bishop Alan: “giving food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick and those in prison, burying the dead; helping the doubtful, sharing faith with others, loving wrongdoers, comforting the afflicted, forgiving others, being patient with those who hurt us, praying for the living and the dead.”
King’s Lynn Parish, for example, took on a year-long series of acts of mercy which included gathering food for the local Foodbank, raising money for the Water Aid charity, collecting clothing and other items for babies and young mums, visiting prisoners and raising funds for emergency cold weather pack for the homeless.
During the year, Bishop Alan visited each of the 11 prisons across the Diocese to celebrate Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation with the prisoners. “One of the most beautiful things that Pope Francis said was that prisoners, who are obviously not able to make a pilgrimage to a Holy Door, could treat the door of their cell as the door of mercy,” he said.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have walked through the Holy Door at Norwich Cathedral from right across the Diocese of East Anglia and from around the world, with visitors recorded from Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Croatia, Poland, USA, Canada, Argentina, Ecuador, Australia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and India among other locations.
See a full picture gallery of the closing of the Holy Door below.