By Benhur Arcayan (Malacañang Photo Bureau) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Benhur Arcayan (Malacañang Photo Bureau) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

December 8, 2015 Inauguration of the Jubilee of Mercy at St. Peter’s Basilica

The Catholic Church Jubilee of Mercy was inaugurated today by Pope Francis, starting an event which will last for one full year. It is expected that this event will attract significant numbers of pilgrims despite considerable logistical challenges and security concerns.

This Catholic tradition dates back 700 years. Believers will be encouraged to renew the relationship they share with God. They will also ask for forgiveness for sins made. Pope Francis, from his part, set the tone for the Jubilee with a surprise September announcement that they will grant every Catholic priest the discretion of absolving women who had abortions. Traditionally, the Catholic religion considers abortion a heinous sin, punishable by excommunication.

The Jubilee will begin by the Pope overseeing the opening of Holy Door, an entrance located in St. Peter's Basilica. It is usually sealed shut at all times, with the only exception during the holy years. The moment will be broadcast around the globe, with the event expected to pull in huge crowds to Vatican. The Holy Doors will also be opened throughout the world- a first in Catholic Church history. These will be the benefit of people who are not able to make their way to Rome.

Pope Francis has declared this Holy Year’s theme to be mercy. It will continue until November 20, 2016. The pope has made a promise to carry out monthly acts to reflect this theme. Such a moment will arrive on December 18 when he will push open the holy door located at a hostel administered by Caritas, the Catholic charity.

The Holy Year's first day will end by a photographic projection on to the cupola and facade of the St. Peter's Basilica. The images will depict climate change, mercy, and humanity. The calendar of Vatican over the subsequent months will be speckled with events bringing into attention the requirement of particular sections of humanity, like the disabled and prisoners. The holy year is made with the intention to forgive sins and promote reconciliation. It occurs in 25-year intervals, but exceptions can be made if a Pope calls for an “extraordinary” jubilee.

For pilgrims, the journey to Rome is no longer needed. Pope Francis has made an innovation where believers have access to a number of Holy Doors scattered around the world. One of them lies in Central African Republic (CAR) capital city of Bangui. The Pope himself has opened a door there in November, kicking off the year of mercy.

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