On December 8th, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door in St. Peter's Basilica to officially start the Jubilee of Mercy.
The second pilgrim to cross through the Holy Door was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in one of his few public appearances this year.
Pope Francis celebrated Mass before opening the door and said that those who think God is a judge who punishes are mistaken. He explained that God is instead a father who waits with affection for his children to return.
"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.”
During the month of December, Pope Francis opened two other Holy Doors. First was the one in the Cathedral of Rome.
"It begins a time of the great forgiveness. It is the Jubilee of Mercy. It is time to rediscover the presence of God and his fatherly tenderness. God does not love rigidity.”
The other holy door that the Pope opened was a bit different. It was located in a Roman homeless center.
The Pope celebrated Mass where 500 needy people receive food every day. It was specially prepared for the ceremony.
"This door is the door of charity, the door which helps so many, so many discarded, make us understand that it would be good for each of us, every Roman, everyone who feels excluded, and feel the need for God's help.”
The Pope asked that only those who work in the center or receive help from it attend the ceremony. In addition to being a soup kitchen it also provides 200 people with a place to sleep each night.
On December 12th, Pope Francis wanted to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas.
During that ceremony, he announced that he will visit Mexico in February. He said he will pray for the suffering and joy of Latin America while there.
"I will travel to venerate this sanctuary next February 13th. There I will ask for all this for all of America, especially from the Mother.”
There was a particularly emotional moment during the ceremony when Pope Francis recalled that it also fell on his parent's 80th wedding anniversary.
"We pray for the souls of my father and my mother, Mario and Regina, who gave me life and passed the faith to me. Who on a day like today, 80 years ago, were married. We pray to the Lord.”
The Pope also celebrated his 79th birthday in December. He received a gift from these young Italians.
"Thank you for the cake.”
That same day, the Pope signed this decree, which recognized a miracle attributed to Mother Teresa. That means she will be canonized in the following months, likely in September.
The miracle is the cure of a 35-year-old Brazilian who had been in a coma following a serious stroke. His recovery was complete and instantaneous.
Before Christmas, the Pope met with the Roman Curia and later with Vatican employees to offer his Christmas greetings. He delivered an emotional speech, asking for forgiveness.
"I also want to ask you for forgiveness for the scandals in the Vatican. Pray for the people involved, that those who have made mistakes repent and can come back to find the right way.”
Every one of them received this card from Pope Francis, which features a simple depiction of baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
And the year ended full of light: St. Peter's Square was illuminated by the Vatican's official Christmas tree donated by the Bavaria region of Germany. This beatiful Nativity scene from the Italian region of Trento was set up next to it.