VATICAN CITY • Pope Francis yesterday brought to a close the Catholic Church's Jubilee of Mercy, shutting the Holy Door at Saint Peter's after a packed 12 months that saw him raise Mother Teresa to sainthood and welcome Syrian Muslim refugees to the Vatican.
The Argentine, who says he is inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi, held special masses and spent one Friday a month with refugees, victims of sex trafficking, the sick, the elderly and vulnerable children.
At a solemn ceremony in front of the panelled bronze doors at the Vatican's basilica yesterday, the Pope paused to pray, clutching the cross around his neck. After walking up the three steps into the basilica alone, he closed the doors in silence. They will be walled up from the inside as per tradition until the next ordinary jubilee, to be marked in 2025.
This year's Extraordinary Jubilee, called by Pope Francis, is only the third since the tradition began 700 years ago. The Holy Year of Mercy kicked off amid concerns over possible militant attacks; police with submachine guns joined Swiss guards around the tiny state.
The opening ceremony last year saw Pope Francis welcoming his predecessor Emeritus Benedict XVI - the first time a current and former pontiff had launched a jubilee year together.
In February, Pope Francis had the remains of Saint Padre Pio - a favourite with those looking for compassion and healing - brought to Rome and carried through the streets to the Vatican. Padre Pio is reputed by believers to have been able to levitate and bi-locate, appearing in foreign lands even while remaining in his friary.
Over 100,000 pilgrims, including Queen Sofia of Spain and 1,500 homeless people, flocked to the Vatican in September for the canonisation of Mother Teresa, held up as an icon who challenged the powerful and defended the poor.
But the Pope ensured that most jubilee events were centred on the outcast or abandoned, holding special masses for the disabled, poor and homeless, as well as prisoners. He also opened a free medical clinic for the homeless next to Saint Peter's Square.