Sociologists of Religion Assessing Jubilee Year

Prayer Was Vital, But Indulgences Weren’t Always Understood

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ROME, MAY 7, 2003 ( The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 was not only of interest to the 25 million pilgrims who came to Rome for the occasion. It also caught the attention of sociologists of religion.

Since 1996, a group of sociologists led by Costantino Cipolla has been analyzing the “phenomenon of the Jubilee 2000.”

On Tuesday, a study seminar at the Luigi Sturzo Institute ( brought together a group of sociologists analyzing aspects of the Jubilee year, including the pilgrims’ profiles and their motivations.

Professor Roberto Cipriani, who teaches at Roman universities, focused on the dimension of prayer among pilgrims.

“The importance of the dimension of prayer is one of the indicators that emerges from the research,” he said.

In a less positive vein, Cipriani commented on the ignorance of the participants regarding the “meaning of the indulgence.” Many of the Jubilee pilgrims, it seems, did not really understand the meaning of forgiveness of their sins and of crossing the Holy Door.

Another dimension of the research focused the opinions that religious groups had of one another. The conclusion is that there is much ignorance of other religions which results in “unfounded judgments without real knowledge,” said professor Francesca Cremonini of Bologna.

Sociologist Pino Losacco, who studied the behavior of young Jubilee-goers, said that as a secular sociologist he had to forget his prejudices and “prepare himself spiritually to understand the event well.”

Losacco admitted that his view “changed radically when coming into contact with the reality, in which I discovered that the pilgrims were normal and ordinary people.”

This sociological program has studied the Jubilee through 1,000 testimonies. The results of the surveys are being published in a series of eight books, including some already in circulation.

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