VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2001 (ZENIT.org).- John Paul II today ended the most anticipated event of his pontificate when he closed the panels of the Holy Door of St. Peter´s Basilica, thus concluding the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
The closing ceremony was very simple and moving. Before ascending the steps leading to the Holy Door of the Vatican Basilica, the Pontiff, who wore a flowing golden cope, knelt for several moments of intense prayer before the Door, as 100,000 pilgrims looked on from St. Peter´s Square using the four giant-screen monitors set up for their use. The pilgrims spilled out onto Via della Conciliazione, as there was no space left on the square. Already by 8:00 a.m., all the seats were filled, leaving tens of thousands standing.
At 9:47 a.m., on a grey and mild morning, the Holy Father closed the Door´s panels without crossing the threshold. Over the course of the year, millions of pilgrims from all over the world crossed this threshold as a sign of conversion during the Jubilee Year. Lines were so long on the last day that the guards were given orders not to lock up St. Peter´s until the last pilgrim had entered the Holy Door. That happened at 3 a.m., January 6. The other 3 Holy Doors in Rome were closed in the late afternoon of January 5 by various Cardinals.
Following the closure of the Holy Door, the Pope presided over the Mass for the feast of the Epiphany and, at the end, in an unprecedented gesture, signed the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte [At the Beginning of the New Millennium] in St. Peter´s Square.
The ceremony ended with a solemn Te Deum, in which the Pontiff thanked God for the spiritual journey experienced by Christians during the 379 days of this “year of grace.”
During the homily, seeing that the crowds were spilling over into the adjacent Square and onto the Via della Conciliazione, John Paul II said: “in the center of Catholicism, the impressive flow of pilgrims has given us this year a vivid image of the journey of the world´s peoples towards Christ.”
As the Holy Father described it, “all kinds of people came, all with the desire to contemplate the face of Christ and to obtain his mercy.”
The Pontiff clarified that, “while today we close the Holy Door, a ´symbol of Christ,´ the Heart of Jesus remains more open than ever. He continues to say to a humanity in need of hope and meaning: ´Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.´ “
The Holy Father continued: “Apart from the numerous celebrations and initiatives that have marked it, the great legacy that the Jubilee leaves us is the living and consoling experience of ´meeting Christ.´ “
During and following this Jubilee Year, the “Church lives not for herself, but for Christ,” the Pope said, “like the moon, she shines not with her own light, but reflects Christ, who is her Sun.”
The Pope appealed for the avoidance of all forms of “self-exaltation.” On the contrary, this Jubilee has helped us to acquire a “deep sense of our limitations and weaknesses.”
“Yet, we cannot but be filled with joy,” because of “the gifts received and our certainty of Christ´s enduring love,” the Holy Father stressed.
With the end of the Jubilee, now is the “time to look to the future,” the Pope concluded. “Christianity is born, and continually draws new life, from this contemplation of the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.”
From “this immersion in contemplation of the mystery,” the great fruit of the Jubilee must be made manifest, testifying “to his Love by living a Christian life marked by communion, charity, and witness before the world.”
Indeed, the above is the plan proposed by the Pope in the new Apostolic Letter. “It can all be reduced to one word: Jesus Christ!” John Paul II emphasized.
At the end of the ceremony, the Holy Father was driven through St. Peter´s Square in the “Popemobile” to greet all those present. About one billion people followed the ceremony by radio or television.