Pope Francis inaugurates special Year of Mercy on 8 Dec
Pope Francis inaugurated a special Year of Mercy at the Vatican on Tuesday by pushing open the huge bronze “Holy Door” that leads into St Peter’s Basilica, to the right of the main entrance. The Door has not been opened since the last Year of Mercy fifteen years ago under Pope John Paul II.
“To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them,” Francis said, as he paused on the threshold of the basilica for two minutes of silent prayer before walking inside. His predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, hundreds of cardinals, bishops and members of religious orders followed the Pope. Thousands of pilgrims are also expected to walk through the Door over the next 12 months.
In a gesture of support for the Global Climate conference in Paris that reflects the Pope’s concern about the environment, images by some of the world’s greatest wildlife photographers were projected onto the facade of Saint Peter’s at the Vatican on Tuesday evening .
The inauguration heralds the start of a special calendar of events based on the theme of mercy including special Masses and extra general audiences in St Peter’s Square. Pope Francis will also set aside one Friday every month to perform an act of mercy in private outside the Vatican.
Since he was elected Pope in March 2013, Francis has shown a more compassionate side of the Roman Catholic Church and the Year of Mercy is intended to portray this. For instance, during the Year of Mercy priests have been authorised by the Pope to offer special pardons to absolve women who have had abortions.
Jubilee years are normally held every 25 or 50 years but popes can announce special jubilees in between if they choose. The first was held in 1300 by Pope Boniface XIII. In past centuries jubilee Years of Mercy inspired many Catholics to make a pilgrimage to Rome to obtain an “indulgence” for the forgiveness of sins.