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Papal Mass Marks Start of Holy Year of Mercy

Pope Francis pushed open the great bronze doors of St. Peter's Basilica on Tuesday, Dec 8, 2015, to launch his Holy Year of Mercy.

. Pope Francis leads a Mass marking the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.

Holy Years normally take place every 25 years unless a pope decrees an extraordinary one to bring attention to a particular need. The next one had been scheduled for 2025 before the pope called for a special one on the theme of mercy, a major part of his push for a less judgmental and more inclusive Church.

Andreas Solaro / AFP - Getty Images

. Pope Francis, (C), kisses the altar as he celebrates Mass.

Alessandra Tarantino / AP

. Pilgrims attend Mass in St Peter's Square.

During the year-long celebrations, one of the most important traditions is pilgrimages to Rome and other religious sites around the world by faithful.

Andreas Solaro / AFP - Getty Images

. Italian police officers search a nun at the entrance to St Peter's Square.

Massimo Percossi / EPA

. A woman takes a photo prior to the start of Mass.

Gregorio Borgia / AP

. Priests take shelter from the rain as they make some final adjustments near the altar ahead of the Mass.

Alessandra Tarantino / AP

. A Vatican employee pours hosts into a chalice to be given to faithful during communion.

Gregorio Borgia / AP

. Pope Francis spreads incense around the altar.

Gregorio Borgia / AP

. Pope Francis pushes open the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica, formally launching the Holy Year of Mercy.

Gregorio Borgia / AP

. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, (C), is helped to pass the Holy Door as Pope Francis looks on, during the ceremony.

Alberto Pizzoli / AFP - Getty Images

. Faithful wait for the start of Mass.

Ettore Ferrari / EPA

. An Italian fireman climbs a ladder to lay a wreath of white flowers on the Immaculate Conception's statue.

Mario De Renzis / EPA

. Pope Francis opens the Holy Door.

Alberto Pizzoli / AFP - Getty Images

. Thousands attended the Mass.

Read More: Pope Francis Launches His Holy Year of Mercy

Alessandra Tarantino / AP