The Archdiocese of Bombay issued a clarification last week after WhatsApp users in Maharashtra were circulating a 'misleading' message which promoted a superstitious understanding of the Year of Mercy.

The archdiocese's Jan. 19 statement noted that the text “gives the impression that merely walking through the Doors of Mercy will result in the forgiveness of sins.”

“These doors are not magical doors and we need to understand that to experience and obtain the indulgence, the faithful are called, as pilgrims, to avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to participate in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy, make a profession of faith, and pray for the Holy Father and for his intentions for the good of the Church and of the entire world.”

The archdiocese's noted added, “It must be understood that walking through the Door of Mercy indicates the desire for the forgiveness of sins, and walking through it symbolises a leaving behind of the past and entering into a new life through Christ, who is the door.”

“Please note that walking through the Holy Doors is not a substitute for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”

A source in the Bombay archdiocese recounted to CNA that the misleading WhatsApp message was based on an article about the opening of the local Holy Doors which appeared in a local daily newspaper. The source added that the article had not entered deeply into the theological, sacramental, or liturgical significance of the Year of Mercy.

The archdiocese has prepared catechetical resources to help the faithful participate in the year of Mercy. It is emphasizing that merely passing through the Holy Doors does not exempt one from the need for spiritual preparation through participation in the sacraments, and that it must be accompanied by a conversion of heart.

Mumbai-area parishes are hosting catechetical seminars to help explain to the faithful the importance and meaning of the Year of Mercy.

Pope Francis opened the Year of Mercy Dec. 8, 2015, and it will close Nov. 20, on the feast of Christ the King.

The jubilee year includes Holy Doors in every diocese. When they pass through the doors pilgrims can receive a plenary indulgence — under the usual conditions.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay opened the Doors of Mercy at Mumbai's Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount on Dec. 20, 2015. He   reminded the faithful: “This is the Lord's Gate: let us enter through it and obtain mercy and forgiveness.” The doors were then opened, using the Bible as the key, with the following invocation, "Open the Gates of Justice; we shall enter and give thanks.”

The cardinal in his homily at the Mass explained the characteristics and significance of the Holy Year and urged the faithful to “fix your eyes on Jesus”   and to be “agents of God’s mercy.”

“No one should say that it is difficult to reach God and difficult to obtain mercy, for the Church is indeed the vehicle of mercy,” Cardinal Gracias said. “We are the Church and it becomes our Christian duty to spread the message of God’s mercy and reconciliation.”

“With the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, we have direction; with the example of our religious leaders, we have motivation; and with God’s mercy through Jesus himself, we have a straight path.”