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Catholic Dictionary




In the Old Testament the Jewish celebration every fiftieth year to commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. It was commanded by Yahweh to Moses, "You will declare this fiftieth year sacred and proclaim the liberation of all the inhabitants of the land. This is to be a jubilee for you; each of you will return to his ancestral home, each to his own clan" (Leviticus, 25:10). In the Catholic Church the jubilee year can be traced to Pope Boniface VIII in 1300 and marked by pilgrimages to Rome, with special services there and throughout the Christian world. Since 1470 the custom has been to hold a regular jubilee every twenty-five years. However, the popes have declared extraordinary jubilees at other times, e.g., in 1933 to commemorate the nineteenth centennial of the Redemption. Jubilees are also celebrated by bishops, priests, religious, and married people to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of their respective ordination, profession, or marriage. ( Etym. Latin jubilaeus [annus], “[year] of jubilee,” alteration [influenced by Latin jubilare, to jubilate]; of late Greek iōbēlaios, from iōbēlos, jubilee, from Hebrew yōbhēl, “ram’s horn” [used to proclaim the jubilee].)