The Jubilee year 2025 is approaching and Saint Peter’s Basilica is preparing for this great celebration of faith. Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica, tells us all about the preparations and reorganization underway in this interview with the Vatican media.
Your Eminence, on 11 February Pope Francis described the Jubilee year as a “gift of grace” to be experienced through “pilgrimages, indulgences, living testimonies of faith.” In his letter to Archbishop Fisichella, the Pope invites the Christian community to live the Holy Year “in all its pastoral significance.” In what way do you feel involved?
Saint Peter’s Basilica also feels called to welcome the Pope’s invitation to prepare for the Holy Year in these three years leading up to it by continuing in the continuity and innovation of its mission.
In particular, the Basilica is preparing for the great Jubilee of 2025 under the sign of the Apostle Peter who, in the first of the two Letters attributed to him, addresses the believers of Asia Minor, inviting them above all to rediscover the spiritual basis for hope: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).
Saint Peter’s Basilica wishes to continue to offer spiritual food for ‘pilgrims of hope,’ as Pope Francis calls them, a place in which to experience the reconciliation that flows from the encounter with Jesus and to raise up a unanimous prayer that His reign of justice and peace may spread throughout the world.
At the same time, the Basilica also aims to be a place to meet and reflect on the themes of fraternity and the environment chosen by the Holy Father in order to help the world that has been harmed from the pandemic and ongoing wars arrive to a ‘rebirth of which we all feel the urgency’.
How are you preparing for the Jubilee?
The ordinary and extraordinary pastoral care of the Basilica is being renewed in order to ‘keep the torch of hope burning.’
First of all, we are looking at the spiritual point of view to offer the possibility of immersing oneself in prayer and adoration; then, from an ecclesial point of view, to encourage encounters with Petrine spirituality at the place of his tomb; finally, from a cultural point of view, to allow people to contemplate the works of sacred art in the Basilica.
In view of the forthcoming Jubilee, the Basilica is preparing to welcome millions of pilgrims expected to come from around the world.
A number of events are being suggested starting from this year, articulated over a three-year period around the themes of closeness and care (2022), reconciliation and purification of memory (2023), and “political love” (2024); in 2025 the path will lead to the Jubilee experience of (universal) fraternity of ‘pilgrims of hope’.
The thematic areas chosen for the three-year preparation period will accompany the program of the Jubilee Committee.
At the same time, thanks also to the new momentum linked to the liturgical animation and pastoral care of both the Chapter and Parish of Saint Peter’s Basilica, liturgical celebrations and sacramental practices are being reorganized.
Some initiatives are being promoted to foster popular piety and the contemplative dimension of prayer. For example, the planning and realization of moments of reflection and prayer in the form of a procession dedicated to Saint Peter and Our Lady, the pious practice of the Way of the Cross, the animation of Eucharistic Adoration, the narration of the life of Jesus and the birth of the Church, including the testimony of the Apostle Peter.
How will visitors be welcomed?
Much quiet work is underway to define even more clearly the role of the shrine of Saint Peter’s Basilica to be at the service of those visiting.
The goal is to allow everyone to experience a pilgrimage, an icon and metaphor of life, and an occasion that unites believers and non-believers alike.
A new plan is being studied on how to accompany tourists in their discovery of the treasures found at Saint Peter’s and their significance, while the reorganization of the reception of visitors is underway.
The first step will be to distinguish, through a guided entrance, the itineraries of the faithful who wish to receive the sacraments or to experience an act of faith and devotion inside the shrine, separate from the presence of tourists who will be offered an introduction and an accompaniment during their visit to encourage them to experience the beauty and inspiration of the works of art.
At the same time, the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the Basilica office in the spirit of its mission is working on ways to support this process and provide the faithful and visitors with a place that is even more welcoming, safe, accessible, and environmentally friendly.
What is the financial situation of the Fabbrica di San Pietro?
The current administration of the Fabbrica inherited a stable and well-maintained reality, thanks to the work of previous management, especially those under the presidency of Cardinal Angelo Comastri.
Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, adding significant strain to the structure and the people, the new administration has inherited an institution with a solid base that will allow it to carry out plans for the future and face the new challenges ahead. This has allowed the Fabbrica to focus on improving its activity in certain areas that are crucial today.
Can you give some examples?
I will respond with a few key words.
– Hospitality. A new website is under construction that will serve as a virtual portal for entering the Basilica, for getting to know more about it, and for planning visits and participation in its activities; the statio peregrinorum has been redesigned, an office dedicated to welcoming pilgrims who arrive at the Tomb of the Apostle after having traveled a long distance on foot or by bicycle; a new form of promoting pilgrimages is being planned to favor people who do not have the financial means to make the trip.
– Safety. Planning has begun for the seismic survey of the monumental complex, for the dynamic monitoring of the structure and the monitoring of the stone materials and the covering stuccoes, in view of the seismic improvement and systematic maintenance work; the plan of the routes that will better manage the groups of visitors who access the Basilica is being planned together with improvements to the video surveillance system.
– Accessibility. New thematic itineraries of art and faith are being prepared, which will also allow for visits to places located on the upper floors of the Basilica that were previously inaccessible; the renovation of the terrace and the attics is underway, as well as a rethinking of the refreshment area to encourage visitors to experience the history, beauty and spirituality; work is being planned to improve the mechanical connections for going up and down the terrace.
– Sustainability. A process is being initiated that will lead Saint Peter’s Basilica to a level of maximum environmental and energy sustainability in order to arrive at the 2025 Jubilee with “zero net emissions” of the shrine and complex of buildings pertaining to it; in addition, information and support tools will be developed for visitors and pilgrims with the dissemination of “Best Practices”; finally, sustainable ways of organization and management of logistics will be promoted, in dialogue with the appropriate Administrations.
How will the crowds of pilgrims be managed?
In order to reach objectives and continue to innovate and adapt to changes history requires, we need to draw on elements of the “digital revolution”, harnessing the potential that technology offers and directing it to the service of management and reception. For this reason, a special office for information technology has been created.
Similarly, it is useful to plan for the “ongoing formation” of pastoral workers, ministrants, guides who accompany groups, employees, “sampietrini” and workers in particular, in order to foster the integral human development of people and improve ministry, service and the realization of works and mission.
This is why internal formation also includes preparation for liturgical animators, some specialization courses for guides, and a school of Arts and Crafts.
At the end of 2021, the Pope established the “Fratelli tutti” Foundation. Tell us more about this…
The newly established Fratelli tutti Foundation will also help the Fabbrica di San Pietro in its preparations for the Jubilee in areas of formation and dialogue with culture, peoples, and religions.
These and other projects require a restructuring in terms of governance, strategy, and organization that entails investments in people – through the enhancement of internal professionalism, in part redistributed and reallocated – the involvement of professionals with proven experience and expertise in management of key areas, and some investment in infrastructure and equipment.
All of this seems achievable, also thanks to the virtuous synergies with the other Vatican offices, the Dicasteries and Institutions connected to the Holy See, and thanks to the precious and free contribution of established businessmen and experts in profit and non-profit companies, and the contribution of the Italian Government for the Jubilee 2025.
All recognize in Saint Peter’s Basilica the symbol of Christianity and in the Holy Father the ‘star’ capable of moving and directing the deepest desires of humanity towards the hoped-for goal that is placed at the center of the Jubilee year.
With thanks to Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.