Pope Francis Opens Yearlong Celebration of Mercy

Praying in front of the Holy Door after Pope Francis opened it on Tuesday. An estimated 10 million pilgrims are expected to pass through it in the coming months. (Max Rossi/Reuters)
Praying in front of the Holy Door after Pope Francis opened it on Tuesday. An estimated 10 million pilgrims are expected to pass through it in the coming months. (Max Rossi/Reuters)

Pope Francis on Tuesday ushered in a yearlong celebration dedicated to the theme of mercy, intoning the ceremonial versicle, “Open unto me the gates of justice” before pushing open the bronze doors in St. Peter’s Basilica that are kept bricked up until the start of a Jubilee, or Holy Year.

The pope paused on the threshold of the basilica for a long moment to pray, then became the first of an estimated 10 million Roman Catholics who are expected to pass through the Holy Door — a symbol of the threshold to salvation — in the coming months.

Francis was followed by a frail-looking pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, who made a rare public appearance to participate in a religious ritual that dates back more than 700 years.

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