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Opening the Doors of Mercy

Father Edward Smith, pastor of St. Paul's Basilica, shows the holy doors to a group of Toronto Knights, who are wearing their convention volunteer shirts.

Taking time out from convention preparations on Sunday, Ontario State Deputy Alain Cayer led a group of volunteers on a brief pilgrimage to St. Paul’s Basilica to pass through the holy doors. The middle doors of the basilica have been designated as “holy” during the current Jubilee Year of Mercy, and passing through the doors is the first step in gaining the jubilee indulgence.

Welcoming the Ontario Knights to the basilica, Father Edward Smith, the pastor, explained the significance of the holy doors and the conditions for gaining the indulgence. He also recounted the history of St. Paul’s, founded in 1822 as the first Catholic parish in Toronto. The original small, brick church was replaced in 1887 by the current ornate Italian Renaissance structure. Its interior is adorned with brilliant murals along the ceiling and walls and a replica of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” in the sanctuary. The bell tower, visible from distant points of the city, was completed in 1905. The tower houses the bell from the original church and also appears to be leaning slightly toward the street. The parish church was raised to the status of a minor basilica in 1999 by papal decree.

Usually a diocese’s cathedral is chosen as a place of pilgrimage during a holy year, but Toronto’s St. Michael’s Cathedral is currently undergoing a major renovation. St. Paul’s Basilica, a few blocks from the cathedral, was renovated gradually over recent decades, and has a side chapel dedicated to the theme of mercy. It is one of nine churches within the archdiocese that has designated holy doors.