Pope Francis opens Holy Doors to launch the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy
December 9, 2015
On December 8 2015, Pope Francis has inaugurated an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy by opening the Holy Door at St Peter's Basilica. The ceremony officially started the Holy Year of Mercy that was announced by the Pontiff in March and will continue until November 20, 2016.
"To enter that door means discovering the depth of the Mercy of the Father who welcomes us all," Holy Father Pope Francis said at the opening Liturgy in St Peter's square. For the first time two popes participated at the ceremony, Pope Francis was joined by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
For the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis requested the ancient Ukrainian icon from the Polish town Yaroslaw "Doors of Mercy".
It was escorted to Rome by priests from the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Przemysl-Warsaw. At the airport the Icon was met by the Ambassador of Poland to the Holy See, Piotr Nowina-Konopka, Ambassador of Ukraine to the Holy See, Tatyana Izhevska, and Vatican representatives.
The image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, which dates from the seventeenth century, comes from the cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the Polish city of Jaroslaw. The icon, which takes its name from the byzantine Lenten liturgical text, "Open the Doors of Mercy to me, O Mother of God" is miraculous and was given a crown by St. John Paul II in 1996. The icon miraculously survived a fire in the church.
A copy of this icon is also found in Argentina in Ukrainian Catholic church where Pope Francis' spiritual director, the late Salesian Bishop Stefan Chmil served as priest.