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Pope Francis closes the door on Jubilee year in Sunday mass

Pope Francis has brought to a close the Catholic Church's "Year of Mercy" by shutting the Holy Door at Saint Peter's. The jubilee is a period where the faithful make a pilgrimage, atone for sins or mature spiritually.

Pope Francis along with the Vatican's cardinals celebrated Sunday mass in St Peter's Basilica, bringing to an end the 11-month Jubilee of Mercy. As part of the celebration, Francis closed the Holy Door, which he opened at the start of the Catholic festival to offer believers a chance to seek a general pardon for their sins.

In his homily, 79-year-old Francis said that while the year of special prayers and gatherings has ended, people should never close "the doors of reconciliation and pardon." What is important to know is "how to go beyond evil and differences," he said. The Holy Year, which started on December 8, 2015, drew roughly 20 million pilgrims to Rome, where they passed through the open Holy Door at the Vatican and at other Rome basilicas. Catholics worldwide could also do so in churches closer to home.

Vatikan Papst Franziskus schließt die Heilige Pforte in der Basilika St. Peter (Reuters/T. Fabi)

At a solemn ceremony in front of the panelled bronze doors at the Vatican's basilica, the pope paused to pray

'The Green Gospel'

In a move that ruffled the feathers of traditionalists, Francis proclaimed that protecting the environment should be added to the seven corporal works of mercy drawn from the Gospels, such as feeding the hungry and visiting the sick. Francis also welcomed Benedict XVI, his German predecessor, in a move that marked the first time a current and former pope launched a jubilee year together. Breaking tradition, Francis refused to open the first one himself at Saint Peter's but in the cathedral of Bangui in the Central African Republic, a sign of the importance of dioceses far from the Vatican.

jar/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa)

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