TORONTO (CNS) — Quebec Archbishop Gerald Lacroix hopes the Holy Door being installed at the Basilica-Cathedral Notre Dame de Quebec will draw more than a million North Americans closer to their roots and faith.
"The idea is not to just come to the door," the archbishop told the Canadian weekly The Catholic Register. "People love to go to the roots of their faith. We get over a million visitors already a year in our cathedral, (and) we’ll certainly get a lot more."
At a special Mass marking the opening of the Holy Door and a jubilee year for the 350th anniversary of Notre Dame de Quebec, the oldest parish in French-speaking North America, Archbishop Lacroix told the congregation that "passing through the Holy Door is a great sign of hope."
"When people decide to embark on this journey toward encountering and following Christ, anything becomes possible. A New World can be achieved," he said.
The Holy Door is in the wall of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart on the north side of the basilica. It will remain unlocked for visitors to pass through until Dec. 28, 2014.
The special door was authorized by the Vatican and is a symbol of communion with the universal church. It is the first Holy Door outside Europe and only the seventh in the world: Four can be found at the major basilicas in Rome, one is in France and the other in Spain.
Sculpted by Quebec artist Jules Lasalle, the door depicts an open-armed Jesus on the exterior with an image of Mary on the interior side.
"The open arms say a lot; that is what the church is called to be, open arms to humanity, to everyone," Archbishop Lacroix told The Catholic Register. "Pope Francis is inviting us so much to come back to Jesus, to re-center our lives and found our lives on the Gospel and Jesus Christ, so I think this is very prophetic in the history of the church. Maybe in some other time we would have had a crucified Christ or we would have some other image of Jesus, but this time he’s got open arms, and he is welcoming, and he is joyful. That is beautiful."
The archbishop said the door would offer not only opportunities for devout Catholics to deepen their faith, but also a means of reinviting those who may have fallen away from the faith over the years.
It is estimated that 18 million North Americans can trace the baptism or marriage of their ancestors back to the basilica.
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