Discover the mercy and tenderness of God. That was the message Pope Francis sent from St. Peter's Square while shielded by heavy security.
As he has said since the early days of his pontificate, the Pope explained that those who believe God is a judge who punishes are mistaken. Rather, he elaborated, God waits ardently for his children to return to Him.
"To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them...How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy.”
The Pope also wanted to commemorate 50 years since the closing the Second Vatican Council. He said it should be remembered as a time when the Church ceased to seclude itself and rediscovered its missionary spirit.
"Before all else, the Council was an encounter. A genuine encounter between the Church and the men and women of our time.”
As he has for other special occasions, Pope Francis invited Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to be present during the opening of the Holy Door. It was perhaps the most important moment of the ceremony.
With this grand gesture, the Jubilee of Mercy was opened. The Pope passed through the door first. He was then followed by his predecessor to much applause. The ceremony was concluded in the basilica, together with cardinals, bishops, and other concelebrants.
St. Peter's Square was specially decorated for the occasion. The Pope presided over the ceremony from the basilica's principal balcony, with a great tapestry with the logo of the Jubilee behind him. It read, "Merciful as the Father.” Despite the cold weather and fear of a terrorist threat, more than 50,000 people were present for the event.