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Jubilee Year 2025 – All Roads Lead to Rome

With the Jubilee Year just a few months away, the focus is on the Eternxal City. Joanna Moorhead has been to see the preparations, and shares her advice on how to get the most out of your 2025 visit.

It’s a sunny spring morning and I’m standing on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, looking down the Via della Conciliazione, the wide street that leads from the Vatican to the Tiber. Ahead of me is the obelisk that dominates the square – and it’s mirrored, at the end of the street, by another vast sky-scraping column. This second one, though, is temporary: it’s a crane, and it’s part of a major operation currently underway to prepare the Eternal City for 2025 and the upcoming Jubilee Year, themed ‘Pilgrims of Hope’.
Jubilees are a huge deal in the Catholic Church: dating back to 1300, they take place every 25 years, and the intention is to re-establish humanity’s relationship with God, with one another, and with creation.
In 2015, two years into his pontificate, Francis instigated a ‘bonus’ or special Jubilee year, to focus on the theme of mercy; the official proclamation of the 2025 year is expected on 9 May. And right now, all the signs in Rome suggest that 2025 will witness a more ambitious series of events than was seen ten years ago, with as many as 30 million visitors expected to travel to the city to take part – Rome’s Fiumicino airport has been upgraded with this partly in mind. No wonder there’s so much construction work going on, with a new pedestrian area planned between St Peter’s and the Castel Sant’Angelo, and works taking place on 14 km of the cobbled streets around the Vatican.

The Piazza Risorgimento near the Vatican is also being transformed, and will be partially pedestrianised, with an underground passage to lead visitors directly to St Peter’s.
Traditionally, jubilee years have very much focused on Rome. And while next year’s will largely be the same, there are caveats.
Because, given that creation is one of the focal points, the Pope has made it clear that it’s absolutely fine if you decide you’d rather make it a green jubilee, and go on a pilgrimage of your own making in the UK. It’s very likely that certain churches outside Rome will be designated Jubilee churches, and will have their own jubilee doors.
Jubilee doors have long been the visual highlight of a Jubilee Year: the symbolism is all about journeying, and passing through a holy door. A few days before Christmas, the Pope will open the first and most important jubilee door: it’s the one to the right of the main door of St Peter’s. This enormous bronze door, adorned with Biblical scenes focusing on stories of forgiveness, is only opened for a jubilee year – the rest of the time it’s bricked up. Traditionally, a Jubilee Year pilgrimage meant visiting the Eternal City and walking through the special doors of the four Papal basilicas: St Peter’s, St John Lateran, St Paul Outside the Walls, and St Maria Maggiore.

I’m here a few months ahead of the Jubilee Year, but I go on my own preview tour – and I’d wholly recommend it. All the basilicas are dripping with history and little-known facts: did you know, for example, that the Mother Church of Catholicism isn’t St Peter’s, it’s St John Lateran? The reason for that dates back to the first centuries of Christianity, when the Pope’s residence was at the Lateran. You’ll enjoy the marvellous sculptures in the basilica of the 12 apostles, sculpted by followers of Bernini in the early 18th century. And right now work is taking place on the sprawling surrounds of the church – patchy lawns are being replaced with new paving, light effects and walk-through
‘splash’ fountains.

Meanwhile St Paul Outside the Walls, famous for its Byzantine interior, features portraits of every single one of the 256 popes from St Peter to Pope Francis. And St Maria Maggiore is the so-called ‘church of the snows’, reputedly founded after a freak summer snowstorm led the Roman leader who built it in the fourth century to the site.
As well as the four major basilicas, there are many other churches worth visiting in Rome: and for 2025, six have been chosen on a route that celebrates some of the greatest female saints in history, including Santa Maria della Vittoria, which contains Bernini’s Ecstacy of St Teresa. My favourite, though, is St Cecilia in Trastevere, a gem of a church built by Benedictine nuns; it’s slightly off the well-worn tourist track, and it lies behind a delightful and peaceful courtyard.

The Jubilee Year features a series of weekends and events dedicated to particular interest groups, so if you’re thinking of going to Rome it’s worth checking out what’s happening when, and for whom. The first major gathering will be the Jubilee of the World of Communication from 24 to 26 January, followed by the Jubilee of the Armed Forces, Police and Security Forces, 8-9 February. Artists are the focus of events on 16-18 February, while people with disabilities will be at the forefront of a special Jubilee convention on 28-30 April. The Jubilee of Choirs will be 22-23 November.

The main Jubilee Year information office is on the Via Della Conciliazione, but digital signposting and information is much better developed than it’s ever been before, and for the first time visitors are being offered a digital pilgrim’s card, which can be activated online and downloaded on to your phone, and which gives access to the main events of the year as well as to the holy door at St Peter’s. Also on the official Jubilee website are details about how to volunteer as a helper – options include working at specific events, or for a period of several days or weeks. If you have the time, volunteering is a great way of getting to know Rome and lapping up the atmosphere of what promises to be an historic, impressive, and meaningful year of events.

For more information on
the Jubilee Year, see
www.iubilaeum2025.va

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