The pubblication of the Papal Bulla today, marks the first official extraordinary act in the Holy Year which will begin on 8th December. The choice for 11th April, in fact, is of no pure coincidence. On this day, Pope Francis will celebrate the first Vespers on Sunday at 5.30pm, of the Divine Mercy, which is the theme of the event. In the last two extraordinary jubilees 1933 and in 1983, the proclamation was issued on occasion of the Solemn Epiphany of the Lord.
The ‘ Papal Bulla’ is a pontificial act of particular importance, which traditionally bears the pontiff’s coat of arms. The term derives from the Latin “bulla” (“bubble” or “round object”), before it had assumed its current meaning, it indicated the wax-seal attached by a small cord to the document to prove its authenticity and consequently it’s authority. Originally “bulla” was the metal capsule – either lead or gold – used in protecting the seal itself. La ‘ bulla of Indiction’ of a jubillee, especially if extraordinary, in addition to indicating the timing, the opening and closing dates, and the principle modalities of the event, it also represents a fundamental document which highlights the spirit with which it is promoted, the intentions and fruits auspiced by the Pontiff.
In the Middle-Ages this act was drwn up in parchment and contained the Pontiff’s provisions as well as the Imperial provisions . Boniface VIII, 22nd February 1300, proclaimed the first Christian Jubilee through the “Antiquorum habet fida relatio”. In 1520 Luther challenges Rome burning the “Exsurge Domine”, while the following year came the ‘bulla’ of excommunication “Decet romanum pontificem”. The “Unam Sanctam Ecclesiam” of Boniface VIII is the last episode on the Mediaval conflict between the spiritual and temporal powers, reaffirming the theocratic ideals expressed previously above all by Gregorio VII in 1075 with “Dictatus Papae”.
The last three Holy Years have been inaugurated with “Iubilaeum Maximum” by Pio XII in 1950, the “Aperite Portas Redemptori” of John Paul II in 1983 and the“Incarnationis mysterium” always by Pope Wojtyla in 2000. The latter begins with the following words: “With a fixed gaze onthe mystery of the reincarnation of the Son of God, the Chruch is preparing itself to cross the threshhold of the third millenium”. And it continues with: “Jesus is the true novelty that overcomes all mankind’s expectations and will remain so forever, throughout the passing of historical eras.”
The publication ceremony today icludes the reading of some extracts from the text in front of the Holy Door of the Vatican Basilica. After having recited the first vespers, Pope Francis, will deliver a copy to the representatives of various churches from different continents, including the prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangilisation of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, and the Congregation of Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri. Furthermore, amongst representatives from all the east,Archbishop of HongKong, Savio Hon Tai-Fai, will recieve a ‘bulla’, secretary of the Congregation of Evanglisation of peoples in Africa, instead. Will be represented by Arch-bishop Barthelemy Adoukounos, from Benin and preset secretary of the Pontificial Council for Culture; on behalf of the eastern churches, the Pope will deliver the ‘bulla’ to Khaled Ayad Bishay, from the patriarchal Church in Alexandria of the Copts .
Translation provided by Marina Stronati