Pope Francis declares Holy Year in Rome

Pontiff makes announcement on his second anniversary.

Pope Francis has announced an extraordinary Holy Year dedicated to "the mercy of God", beginning on 8 December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and ending on 20 November 2016. Francis made the announcement on 13 March, on his second anniversary as pontiff, saying the Jubilee shall be a "Holy Year of Mercy."

The event will see the formal opening, or “unsealing”, of the Holy Doors at St Peter's as well as at the three other papal basilicas in Rome: St John Lateran, St Paul's Outside the Walls, and S. Maria Maggiore.

Popes can call extraordinary Holy Years at any time, and the last such event was in 1983, while ordinary Holy Years generally occur every 25 years and the last one was called by John Paul II in 2000. That Jubilee year attracted about 25 million pilgrims and tourists to Rome, representing a 25 per cent increase in the usual number of annual visitors to the capital.

Italian premier Matteo Renzi has described the upcoming Holy Year as "good news", adding that Italy "will do its part on this occasion".

Rome mayor Ignazio Marino has also welcomed the announcement, saying the city has already begun planning for the event, which could draw "tens of millions of pilgrims" to the city. Marino spoke of the new for good and efficient organisation of existing infrastructure rather than the construction of new and expensive projects.