For the first time in history, representatives of the Anglican and Orthodox churches have participated in a key ceremony in Rome marking an official Catholic jubilee year. Some leading international Protestant organizations pointedly stayed away from the ceremony, however, mainly because of the issue of indulgences. The Vatican has designated 2000 as a jubilee year, a time of special importance for Catholics that includes the granting of indulgences. The Catholic Church teaches that an indulgence is not a pardon for sin, but provides remission of the temporal punishment for an already forgiven sin. Jubilee years—celebrated once every 25 years—include special ceremonies for opening doors at four basilicas in Rome. January's opening at St. Paul's Basilica coincided with the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The ceremony signaled the pope's wish to heal the divisions within Christianity. Anglicanism's Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and Orthodox Metropolitan Athanasios of Heliopolis and Theira, together with Pope John Paul II, pushed open the holy door of St. Paul's. Never before in the 700 years since Rome began celebrating jubilee years has it shared a jubilee ceremony in this way with non-Catholic churches."How is it possible that, despite their fundamental unity in their baptism in Christ, Christians are so divided?" Pope John Paul asked during the ceremony. Representatives included officials from the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Methodist Council, and the Disciples of Christ. The Baptist World Alliance and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches did not send representatives to the event. Within Italy, the jubilee has attracted Protestant criticism of Vatican pronouncements on indulgences."Hardly any of the Protestant community in Italy participated in the opening of the holy door of St. Paul's Basilica, mindful of the fact that if it is true that Christ is the door to forgiveness, this forgiveness is open to us every day," Domenico Tomasetto, president of the Federation of Italian Protestant Churches, told an Italian Protestant news agency.Dean Jurgen Astfalk, head of Italy's Evangelical Lutheran Church, warns against false glorification of the church: "The jubilee should first of all be an act of penance to give praise to God alone."

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