February 8, 2016

QUEBEC - On Dec. 12, Notre Dame Cathedral in Quebec City re-opened its Holy Door, the only permanent holy door in the Americas.

These symbolic doors grace only seven important cathedrals in the world. The most famous is in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican while the other six are in Rome, France, Spain and Quebec.

Normally, these doors are sealed from the inside with mortar and cement. But in jubilee years, they are ceremoniously opened. Back in the 1500s, jubilees happened every 33 years to commemorate Jesus' lifespan.

Now each cathedral celebrates its jubilee every 25 years. Since Pope Francis declared a special Year of Mercy, this is the first time all the holy doors in the world have been opened simultaneously.

When Cardinal Gerald Lacroix opened Quebec's Holy Door, hundreds of people crowded around him as he addressed pilgrims outside the church. Then, he approached the Holy Door, performed a ritual knocking and call, followed by a response from a priest inside who opened the door.

The 800-seat cathedral overflowed for the Mass, after which people stood in line to enter the cathedral through the Holy Door. The door will be open until November.

Holy doors are located on the sides of cathedrals so that, instead of automatically entering through the Holy Door, the faithful must make a conscious effort to use it. Also, holy doors are entrances and not exits; one walks into, not out of, one's faith.

Because not everyone can travel to Europe or Quebec, Pope Francis decreed that holy doors of mercy be opened in cathedrals around the world. Pilgrims can have the same spiritual experience entering through a door of mercy.

As Pope Francis said when opening the Vatican's Holy Door on Dec. 8, "How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy.

"We have to put mercy before judgment and, in any event, God's judgment will always be in light of his mercy."