VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Whether in Rome or at home, Catholics will have a variety of ways to take part in the Year of Mercy.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, the office organizing events for the Holy Year, presented details about some of the events planned at the Vatican and the services available for pilgrims.

Pope Francis will use a “very simple” ceremony to open the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 8, said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, council president, who spoke at a Vatican news conference Dec. 4.


After reciting verses from the Psalms, the pope will open the door and lead a procession of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laypeople through the door, arriving at the tomb of St. Peter.

That evening a coalition of production companies and charitable foundations, including the World Bank’s “Connect4Climate” group, will present “a gift of contemporary public art” to Pope Francis by illuminating the facade and dome of St. Peter’s with high resolution images by world-class photographers and filmmakers, according to a coalition press release.

The images of people and nature were meant to show the interdependency of creation and “to educate and inspire change about the climate crisis,” it said.

The pope will also carry out a “symbolic gesture” related to one of the works of mercy on one Friday of every month during the Holy Year. He will begin with a “strictly private” visit Dec. 18 to a shelter run by the Rome diocesan Caritas.

Other details Archbishop Fisichella offered:

— Until the year ends Nov. 20, 2016, every evening in front of the statue of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Square, groups will take turns leading the recitation of the rosary.

— In addition to the pope’s Wednesday general audience, he will hold a special general audience one Saturday a month.

— Special confessionals with wheelchair access will be available in St. Peter’s Basilica and other Rome churches. Audio, video and “tactile-book” resources will be available for people with a visual or hearing impairment.

— Pilgrims who wish to walk through the Holy Door at St. Peter’s or take part in other major jubilee events in Rome will have to preregister in order to receive the free tickets. It can be done online at or in person at the official pilgrim information center at Via della Conciliazione 7, which is along the wide boulevard leading to St. Peter’s.

— Tourists wanting only to visit St. Peter’s Basilica will be in a separate line from pilgrims who are registered to go through the Holy Door. Everyone entering the basilica will have to pass through a metal detector.

— Pilgrims who come to Rome, especially those traveling on foot, will receive an official “testimonium” from the pilgrim information center. Organizers warned against “inauthentic” certificates that may be in circulation.

— Pilgrims should look for the Year of Mercy trademarked logo as a kind of “seal of approval” that also will guarantee fair prices for food and lodging at participating businesses.

Archbishop Jose Octavio Ruiz Arenas, secretary of the new evangelization council, said a pilgrimage to Rome for a Holy Year has always been a sign of the journey of conversion and renewing one’s faith before the tomb of St. Peter.

However, despite the large numbers of pilgrims making the journey over the centuries, the time or expenses connected to a voyage to Rome also meant “the great majority of church members could not go through the Holy Door,” he said at the news conference.

Pope Francis has asked that Doors of Mercy be opened Dec. 13 in every cathedral, major church or sanctuary in the world so that people can experience a pilgrimage near their own homes.

The pope also has “granted all the bishops of the world the power to give the papal blessing at the holy Mass for the opening of the Holy Door and for the closure of the door at the end of the Holy Year,” Archbishop Fisichella said.

More than 800 priests will be appointed by Pope Francis to be “missionaries of mercy” and will go to different parts of the world to be “preachers and confessors of mercy,” the archbishop said.

While all Catholic priests have been granted the faculty of lifting the penalties for the sin of abortion during the Year of Mercy, the “missionaries of mercy” have been given special authority to lift even those penalties reserved to the Holy See.

A series of eight Holy Year books on themes as mercy, confession, the saints and Mary, are available in 10 languages. Ordering information is at or from the U.S. distributor, Our Sunday Visitor at