One of the features of the Jubilee of Mercy is the opening of a Holy Door. It is opened to evoke the concept of forgiveness and according to ‘Mondo Vaticano’, a mini-encyclopedia published by the Vatican, the designation of a Holy Door may trace back to the ancient Christian practice of public penitence, when sinners were given public penances to perform before receiving absolution. The penitents were not allowed to enter a church before completing the penance, but they were solemnly welcomed back in when their penance was fulfilled. The ritual for opening the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica goes back to 1499 when Pope Alexander VI opened the door on Christmas Eve to inaugurate the Holy Year 1500.
What does it mean to go through a Holy Door? Christ identified Himself as ‘the door’. He said, ‘I am the door’ (Jn 10:7). Therefore to pass through a Holy Door is to pass from this world into the presence of God, just as in the old Temple of Jerusalem, the High Priest on the Feast of Yom Kippur passed through the door of the Holy of Holies to enter into the presence of God to offer the sacrifice of atonement. The Holy Year is a time when God pours forth abundant graces to quench the thirst of our souls. It is a time when the people seek to grow in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis encourages us to make a pilgrimage to a Holy Door in this Jubilee year:
“The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a pilgrim travelling along the road, making their way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.” (MV14).
In response to this the Diocese of Nottingham has four Holy doors.