On Tuesday Pope Francis pushed opened the huge bronze Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome to launch the Catholic Church’s “Year of Mercy”.
Tens of thousands attended a Mass in St Peter’s Square for the start of the Pope’s “revolution of tenderness”.
It took place place amid tight security with extra police and soldiers deployed, and a no-fly zone imposed.
Under the year’s theme of mercy, the Pope has said priests can absolve women who have had abortions.
During the jubilee celebrations, one of the most important events in the Roman Catholic Church, pilgrims travel to Rome and religious sites around the world.
At the end of the Mass, Francis opened the basilica’s Holy Door. He said that by passing through it, Catholics should take on the role of the Good Samaritan.
It is the first time the Holy Door has been opened since the Great Jubilee in the 2000 called for by St John Paul II. It has been bricked up since then.
Jubilee years are rooted in the Old Testament tradition of freeing slaves and prisoners once every 50 years, a concept that died out within Judaism but was taken up by Pope Boniface VIII for the Catholic Church in 1300.
Pilgrimages to Rome were at the heart of the original jubilee years, and attracted hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to the city, many willing to pay for “indulgences” – the eradication by the Church of the spiritual debt arising from sin.
It was a tradition that not only contributed copious cash to the Vatican’s coffers, but also contributed to the theological turmoil that led to the establishment of rival Protestant churches across much of northern Europe.
The last Jubilee was called by St John Paul II to mark the millennium, and this Holy Year of Mercy starts on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 2015 and will end on the Feast of Christ the King on 20 November 2016.
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