What is a Jubilee Year?

According to the Holy See, the origin of the Christian Jubilee goes back to Old Testament times. The Law of Moses prescribed a special year for the Jewish people (Lev 25:10-14). The trumpet with which this particular year was announced was a goat's horn, called Yobel in Hebrew, and the origin of the word "jubilee." The celebration of this year also included the restitution of land to the original owners, the remission of debts, the liberation of slaves, and "rest" for the land, which was left fallow. In the New Testament, Jesus presents himself as the One who brings the old Jubilee to completion, because he has come to "preach the year of the Lord's favor" (Lk 4:18-19; see also Is 61:1-2).

The Holy See says that, in the Roman Catholic tradition, a Holy Year or Jubilee is a great religious event, held roughly every 25 years, for the forgiveness of sins and the punishment due to sin. The Christian Jubilee tradition began with Pope Boniface VIII in 1300. Since that time, the Church has celebrated 26 ordinary and three extraordinary Jubilee Years. A Jubilee is a year of reconciliation between adversaries, conversion, and a time to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Consequently, it is a time of solidarity, hope, justice, and commitment to serve God with joy and in peace with our brothers and sisters. A Jubilee Year is, above all, the year of Christ, who brings life and grace to humanity ("What is a Holy Year?" www.vatican.va).