The “Doors of Mercy", the 17th-century Ukrainian icon was brought to the Vatican for the solemn opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The event took place at a recent ceremony led by Pope Francis, Radio Vatican reported. He inaugurated an extraordinary Jubilee by opening the massive bronze Holy Door of St Peter's Basilica in front of a crowd of worshippers. The ceremony officially started the Holy Year of Mercy that was sparingly announced by the pontiff and is to run until November 2016.
"To enter that door means discovering the depth of the Mercy of the Father who welcomes us all," Pope Francis said, referring to the icon, during the opening Mass in St Peter's square that featured prayers in Chinese, Arabic, French, Swahili and other languages. For the first time two popes participated at the ceremony, as Francis was flanked by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
The "Doors of Mercy" combines both Western and Eastern traditions, is particularly symbolic and encourages all Christians to unity and peace for the sake of charity. Radio Vatican reports that the image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, which dates from the seventeenth century, comes from the cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the Polish city of Jaroslaw. The icon, which takes its name from the Byzantine Lenten liturgical text, "Open the Doors of Mercy to me, Oh Mother of God", is considered miraculous by St. John Paul II in 1996.
A copy of of the icon is also found in the Argentinian church belonging to Pope Francis' former spiritual director, Ukrainian Catholic priest Fr. Stephan Chmil, who was later made a bishop.