Dubai: Christmas might be over, but if it’s a Friday, it’s very likely the global head of the Catholic Church is spreading cheer at a hospital or a nursing home, in an unannounced visit.
It’s all part of Pope Francis’ "Fridays of Mercy" initiative.
He is following an ancient tradition that has roots in the Old Testament: The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, the jubilee year is called every 50 years and is considered a time for forgiveness. It stands as a reminder of divine providence and mercy.
But why now?
Pope Francis answered this question in his homily at the Vatican in 2015. He said: “Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favourable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
The jubilee year started on December 8, 2015, from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and ended on November 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ. However, Pope Francis’ ‘Fridays of Mercy’ tradition continues, over a year later.
Just last weekend, he visited young patients at the Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù (Baby Jesus Paediatric Hospital) 30km from Rome, and was inundated with handshakes and hugs.