Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Masses for Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception Beginning the Year of Mercy

Holy Doors at Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle and Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception are opened.

December 8, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, today celebrated the noon Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. At the beginning of Mass, the cardinal opened the Holy Door, “a symbol of God’s loving welcome as we begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy,” he explained as he began his homily. Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy from December 8, 2015 (Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) through November 20, 2016 (Solemnity of Christ the King) where he calls on everyone to experience the gift of God’s loving compassion and the power it has to transform our hearts.

“To announce this special time of grace, the Holy Father issued a document entitled, Misericordiae Vultus, which is Latin for “The Face of Mercy,” Cardinal Wuerl said in his homily. “He explains the title and reason for the Jubilee Year by writing, ‘Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy [and] we need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace.’ Our salvation, and that of others, depends on this mercy and so we must be a people of mercy.” For the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Holy Father asked that a Door of Mercy be opened for pilgrims at cathedrals and churches of special significance around the world. Pope Francis encourages us all to make a pilgrimage through the Holy Door during the Year of Mercy, saying, “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.”

During the vigil Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Tuesday evening, Cardinal Wuerl opened the Holy Door at the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Washington which is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. At the noon Mass today, the cardinal opened the national Holy Door at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Francis visited both St. Matthew’s and the basilica when he was in Washington during his apostolic visit to the United States this past September.

“This is a moment of grace, a year in which we are all called to experience, once again, personally and as a family, God’s great love for us even when we fail, even when we sin. The Holy Door is a visible invitation for each of us to say, ‘Lord, I am sorry,’ so that we can hear the words: ‘You are forgiven,’ said the cardinal in his homily. “How appropriate that the opening of the Holy Door and the beginning of this Holy Year would start as the Church celebrates the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

“While you and I are conscious of the human condition and all of the sin, failure and selfishness that is a part of it, that we have introduced into God’s creation, the Church holds up for us the Blessed Virgin Mary as a sign of hope and a beacon of light – Mary. Today we rejoice in her Immaculate Conception, celebrating her as God’s greatest creation – the vessel he fashioned to be his Son’s own Mother, the woman who would bring his Word into the world.”

“By her Immaculate Conception, Mary is truly a proper and pure living temple for the Son of God, a holy, living house of the Lord. Our aspiration, our goal is to approximate that goodness, purity and holiness of Mary. Thus we enter into this Jubilee Year of Mercy,” said the cardinal.

“May our faith as disciples of the Lord be strengthened as we go through the doors of mercy and may our love of Jesus be deepened by our experience of God’s loving and forgiving embrace. And may we, as true missionary disciples, try to share that mercy with everyone around us,” said the cardinal as he concluded his homily.

Visit the Archdiocese of Washington’s Year of Mercy website and follow social media by using #EncounterMercy.


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi or Lindsey Frechou
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