Pontiff urges church to embrace the modern world

The Vatican revealed that 70,000 pilgrims had packed into St Peter's square and surrounding streets to watch Francis open the usually bricked-up wall in the facade of the renaissance basilica.

Pope Francis (left) greets Pope emeritus Benedict XVI before the opening of the Holy Door to mark the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the Vatican, on December 8, 2015

Pope Francis has urged churches across the globe to each out and embrace the modern world.

He expressed this view on Tuesday when he launched n extraordinary Catholic Jubilee year of mercy by opening a “Holy Door” in the walls of St Peter’s, embracing a 700-year-old tradition.

“This is the door of the Lord. Open to me the gates of justice,” the Argentinian pontiff said before being helped up three marble steps to push the giant bronze doors open.

The 78-year-old then paused on the threshold of the renaissance basilica for two minutes of silent prayer before walking inside in an act to be carried out by millions of pilgrims before the Jubilee closes next November.

According to Yahoo reports, the pope was then followed through the door by his frail predecessor the now-retired Benedict XVI, 88, and by hundreds of cardinals, bishops and male and female members of religious orders.

Among them was Cecilia Koo from South Korea. "This pope says he is here to serve. He is one of my favourites," she said.

Francis said the 1960s council had allowed the Church to emerge from self-enclosure.

"It was the resumption of a journey of encountering people where they live: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces," he said.

"Wherever there are people, the Church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the gospel."

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