The Pontiff posed this question in his homily last night at St. Peter's Basilica, responding: "Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God's presence and closeness."
The Pope's remarks were intertwined with his having officially proclaimed a new Holy Year yesterday with the presentation of the official Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
In his homily, Francis stressed that the Church is called to offer “more evident signs” of God’s presence and closeness.
"This is not the time to be distracted,” he said. “On the contrary, we need to be vigilant and to reawaken in ourselves the capacity to see what is essential.”
This is a time, Francis said, for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on Easter Day, namely, "to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy."
This year we are to be transformed by His mercy, so that we too may become "witnesses to mercy,” the Pope said, noting, “Without the witness of pardon," he lamented, "life would be unfruitful and sterile.”
The Holy Year’s motto is, “Be merciful like your Father” which the Pope said, involves opening our hearts and witnessing mercy everywhere, for, "Pardon is a force that can give rise to new life and infuse courage to look with hope to the future.”
Fr. Leonardo Sapienza, Regent of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, read the Bull in a ceremony by the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica.
With the Bull of Indiction--the formal document explaining why the Pope called the Jubilee, his hopes for it and giving an outline of what will happen during the Holy Year--Francis formally convoked the Jubilee. Afterward, the 78-year-old Pontiff moved into the basilica to preside over Vespers for Divine Mercy Sunday.
Entitled “Misericordiae Vultus” or “The Face of Mercy,” the Bull begins by saying how Jesus is 'the face' of His Father's mercy. It also explains that the year's opening date Dec. 8 is to commemorate both the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, and that the closing date Nov. 20, 2016, is to commemorate the Feast of Christ the King.
The Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica will be open on Dec. 8, and Holy Doors of the other papal basilicas will similarly be opened in the days which follow. The Holy Father has also requested that every diocese around the world open similar doors of mercy as a sign of communion with the Church and as a way for the Jubilee to be celebrated locally.
The Pope gave a copy of this Bull to the archpriests of the four major Roman basilicas, at each of which there will be a Holy Door through which pilgrims will pass. He also distributed copies to other Church representatives during the brief ceremony in front of the Holy Door in the atrium of St Peter’s Basilica. The ceremony was attended by cardinals, bishops, clergy and lay people.