Amidst noticeably increased security measures, Pope Francis Wednesday presided at the general audience under overcast skies in a chilly St. Peter’s Square, dedicating the weekly catechesis to the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy. As this Jubilee approaches, he said of the December 8 opening, “today we consider the great open door of God’s mercy, symbolized by the Holy Doors which will open in Churches throughout the world” at the start of this Holy Year.

Francis explained that, “the recent Synod of Bishops on the Family encouraged families in a particular way to enter this door of mercy and to open the doors of their hearts to others.  Jesus tells us that He stands knocking at our door, asking that we open it to Him.  How important it is,” stressed the Pope, “for us to be good doorkeepers, capable of opening our doors and making our homes places of encounter and welcome, especially to our brothers and sisters in need!

And, said the Holy Father repeatedly, departing often from his prepared text, “Jesus also tells us that He Himself is the door that leads to salvation; if we pass through Him, we will find lasting security and freedom.”


In one such departure, he said, “If the door of God’s mercy is always open, even so must be the doors of our churches, the love of our communities, our parishes, our institutions, our dioceses, for when they are, we can all go out to bring this mercy of God [to those who most need it]. The Jubilee Year recalls the great door of God’s mercy, but also the small doors of our churches – open to let the Lord in – or to let the Lord out, who is often the prisoner of our structures, our selfishness, and of so many things.”


He referred several times to “porte blindate,” to armoured doors, saying there are too many of these reinforced doors today. “Please,” he said, “no reinforced doors at churches, everything open. The Church is the doorkeeper of the Lord’s home, the doorkeeper, not the owner of the Lord’s home.” This generated great applause.


Francis also had “words of gratitude to all doorkeepers – in our apartment buildings, in our civic institutions, in our churches. Thank you very much,” he said extemporaneously, “for you always welcome people with a smile, so that people feel welcome and happy in that house, in that church…”The Pope added, “We have to learn from these men and women who are the keepers of places of encounter and welcome in the city of man.”

At the end of the audience, as is customary, the Pope saluted several groups, including pilgrims belonging to Poland’s historic Solidarity movement, the Italian association of people affected by thalidomide, and pilgrims from across the Arabic-speaking world, especially from Lebanon and Syria.

“During the Jubilee of Mercy,” he said, “let Christian families make of the thresholds of their houses a sign of the mercy and welcome of God; let every Church be witness to the Mercy of the Heavenly Father, Who never closes the door of His pardon in the face of those who are repentant, and never treats us according to our deserts, but according to the immensity of His Mercy and Love.”

Greeting Arabic-speaking pilgrims, Francis said, “May the Lord bless you and protect you from evil.”


(VIS) – The Vatican today published the calendar of liturgical celebrations at which the Holy Father will preside in  December 2015 and January 2016 (through the 10th). Here are the celebrations given  by the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff:


Tuesday 8: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At 9.30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica, Holy Mass and opening of the Holy Door.

Tuesday 8: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At 4 p.m. in Piazza di Spagna, veneration of the image of Mary Immaculate.

Saturday 12: Feast of Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. At 6 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Sunday 13: “Gaudete Sunday” Third Sunday of Advent. At 9.30 a.m. in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Holy Mass and opening of the Holy Door.

Thursday 24: Vigil of the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. At 9.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass (Midnight Mass).

Friday 25: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. Central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, at 12 noon, “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

Sunday 27: Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass for Families.

Thursday 31: Vigil of Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, First Vespers and Te Deum, in Thanksgiving for the past year.


Friday 1: Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. 49th World Peace Day. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Friday 1: Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. At 5 p.m. in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Holy Mass and opening of the Holy Door.

Wednesday 6: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Sunday 10: Sunday after the Epiphany: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. At 9.30 a.m. in the Sistine Chapel. Holy Mass and baptism of babies.


A day after the Holy Door at St. John Lateran cathedral was readied for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, workers on Tuesday unbricked the inside wall of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s basilica that Pope Francis will open December 8.

The Recognitio ceremony took place on Tuesday evening and was led by the Basilica’s Cardinal Archpriest Angelo Comastri.

View of the Holy Door from inside the basilica (JFL photo)


After a procession and short prayer service led by Cardinal Comastri, workers began to carefully remove the wall, extracting a small, metal box which conserved mementos from the Great Jubilee of the year 2000.


The zinc box contained several documents certifying the closure of the Holy Door at the end of the last Holy Year. Also included were the keys that will allow Pope Francis to open the Holy Door, as well as the parchment deed, some bricks, and several commemorative medals.

Also present for the event were the Master of Ceremonies of St. Peter’s Basilica, Mons. Guido Marini, who received the documents and objects of the Recognitio ceremony, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.

The outside of St. Peter’s Holy Door (JFL photo was taken the day the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee was read):

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Holy Doors of the four papal basilicas of Rome will be opened at the start of the Holy Year: St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.

For the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has also asked for Holy Doors to be established at Rome’s Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love, and the diocesan Caritas Hostel on Via Marsala. (Vatican Radio)




As I came back from a late afternoon television taping in a Vatican office on Via della Conciliazione, I walked down this broad avenue to and then through St. Peter’s Square. I saw a massive police presence in the small square at the end of Conciliazione, Piazza Pio XII, and around the larger, more famous square, and this was at 5 pm.

In fact, as I could tell by the usual barricades being set up for traffic flow tomorrow, St. Peter’s Square was being readied for Pope Francis’ general audience in the morning. I am guessing that the pilgrims intent on being there have been advised to get to the square fairly early for security checks. I also saw a number of new airport-style security machines that were placed among the colonnades, looking like they had just come out of the box.  I imagine many more of those will be arriving in coming days.

A friend told me today that there are military people stationed in the cars of the Rome metropolitana or subway and around the stations, all bearing machine guns. Two other friends, young men in a store I know, told me they were stopped by police near St. Peter’s Square and asked for ID. That will surely increase as the days go by, as people come for a general audience or the Sunday Angelus and as we near the December 8 start of the Jubilee Year.

When unusual and potentially dangerous situations arise in Italy or Europe, the U.S. embassies send notices to citizens who are registered with them. Here is the notice I got after the Paris attacks (I post this also for people who might be traveling or live in Rome who are not registered at an embassy):

“In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, the U.S. Mission in Italy reminds U.S. citizens in Italy to review the Worldwide Caution, which provides information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world, including Europe.

“Recent terrorist attacks, whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators, serve as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.

“For further information:

“See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and France Country Specific Information.

“Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.”

In other developments in Italy (various news sources):

– Airspace over Rome will be closed-off to drones during the upcoming Catholic Holy Year, or Jubilee, over fears that the remote-controlled aircraft could be used by ISIS in a terror attack. As well as closing-off airspace over Rome to drones, security checkpoints will be set up at St Peter’s square.

– Italy has tightened security in the wake of the Paris attacks on Friday night. Some 700 extra troops have been deployed onto Rome’s streets to combat the threat of militants while security has been tightened at Italy’s borders and airports across the country.

Squares across Italy now bear impromptu memorials and messages of support for the French people but amid the display of solidarity, Italians are divided over how to confront the threat of Isis. In Rome, people came to the central square of Piazza del Popolo on Saturday night and lit candles, lay flowers and wrote touching messages in support of the French people. In the square in front of Palazzo Farnese – currently the seat of the French Embassy in Rome – a sea of flowers, candles and cards lined the ground by Sunday evening (as you saw in the photos I posted).

– On Saturday the Italian government raised its terror alert and warned that Rome could be a target for ISIS.


Following the invitation from the Chief Rabbi and Jewish Community of Rome, Pope Francis will pay a visit to the Great Synagogue in the afternoon of Sunday 17 January 2016. It will be the third visit by a Pope to the Great Synagogue of Rome, following John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The visit will take the form of a personal encounter between the Pope and the representatives of Judaism and the members of the Community. A more detailed program of the visit will be published in due course


When the Jubilee Year of Mercy begins on December 8th, all eyes will be looking towards Rome. So the Governorate of Vatican City has decided to take advantage of the attention and unveil the St. Peters Square Christmas tree on the same day.

This year’s tree, says a Vatican Radio report, has been donated by the German region of Bavaria, and is a 32-neter high two-pointed Spruce. The tree arrives Wednesday, November 18 and is set to be erected overnight by the staff of the Vatican Gardens.

The 2015 Nativity scene of 24 life-sized figures will be donated by the archdiocese of Trento, in collaboration with the Friends of the Crib of Tesero group. Except for the Holy Family and Three Magi, the scene will depict rural buildings and typical Trentino clothing from the mid-twentieth century.

The Christmas tree will be especially unique this year. It was announced that the Vatican has joined forces with the Countess Lene Thun Foundation and recreated designs made by children suffering from cancer. This Foundation offers recreational therapy to children in oncology wards across Italy. The children were asked to come up with designs that represent their dreams and desires. Some of the children who designed the decorations will meet Pope Francis on December 8. They will present him with some of the decorations they made and accompany him to the unveiling of the tree.

The Christmas tree will be illuminated on December 18.


On Monday, the Holy Door of the papal basilica of St. John Lateran was freed from the brick wall that had hidden it since the year 2000. The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini, said a prayer and then workers – seen in the photo – carefully tore down the wall that protects the Holy Door in between Jubilees.

HOLY DOOR - St John LAteran

Workers recovered a zinc box that contained the documents certifying the closure of the door at the end of the Year 2000 Jubilee. The box also contained 41 medals with the emblem of Pope John Paul II: A gold one minted in 2000; 23 silver ones representing the years of the pontificate of John Paul II at the time of the last Jubilee; and 17 bronze ones , one for each year since 1983, the year of the previous Jubilee.

Also present were the Cathedral Chapter of the Lateran; Msgr. Guido Marini, papal master of liturgical ceremonies, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the council in charge of preparing and executing the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

St John Lateran is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome, and the Holy Door will be officially opened by Pope Francis on December 13, the first Sunday of the Jubilee of Mercy. The Holy Year actually begins December 8 with the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica.