By Peter O'Dwyer
Perhaps the most high-profile plenary indulgence this year is attached to the Holy Door. A Holy Door is a door in a basilica or cathedral that is only opened in a Jubilee year. Pilgrims who pass through it gain a plenary indulgence, as long as the normal requirements are met.
The Holy Door is an interesting tradition. Between Jubilee years, the door is bricked up and mortared shut. This tradition comes from antiquity. In the early Church, the door was always open. This is significant because among the benefits of passing through the door was sanctuary from persecutors.
Soon the door was routinely abused, and to prevent further desecration, the door was walled up, only to be opened every 100 years. This length of time was shortened to 50, then 25. The Pope can also call an extraordinary Jubilee year at any time, the last two being in 1983 and this year, 2016.
The door also has theological significance. Jesus called himself the gate to salvation, and it symbolizes conversion, leaving one place and entering another.
Traditionally, to get the indulgence, one had to travel to Rome or a handful of other basilicas around the world to pass through a Holy Door. But in the Bull announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis granted each bishop the ability to designate a Holy Door of his own.
In order to gain the indulgence, which can be gained for oneself or one of the dead, one must fulfill the usual conditions:
A plenary indulgence can be gained once per day.
If you wish to help the souls in Purgatory, one of the best ways will be to check to see if your diocese has a Holy Door and visit it regularly this year.
Watch the full show: "The Download—Redemptive Suffering."