Pope's Jubilee year off to a sluggish start

2016-01-01 12:27
Pope Francis receives bishops in St Peter's Square. (Andrew Medichini, AP)

Pope Francis receives bishops in St Peter's Square. (Andrew Medichini, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Vatican City - Pope Francis's Jubilee Year of Mercy is off to a sluggish start, to the disappointment of Rome's hoteliers, restaurateurs and souvenir sellers.

Far from being flooded with pilgrims, as the Italian authorities had anticipated, the streets around St Peter's basilica have been eerily quiet over the end-of-year holiday season, following attacks in France in November.

"There seems to be the same number of people about as this time last year," said one of the street traders in the Via della Conciliazione.

"But it is clear the crowds we were told to expect have not materialised."

Jihadist attacks

The view from the street is confirmed by official figures from the Vatican, which revealed earlier this week that the number of people attending papal audiences were 30% down from the same time last year.

Italian media have jumped on the figures to predict that the Jubilee year, which runs until November 20, is set to be a flop, largely as a result of the impact of the jihadist attacks on Paris.

During the last Catholic Jubilee year, in 2000, nearly 150 pilgrims went through the doors of St Peter's every minute and a total of 32 million visited Rome during the year.

According to the Eternal City's hotel and restaurant federation, hotel occupancy rates are running at 70%, down from 90% at this time last year.

But it seems likely that is not only the fear of terrorist attacks that is keeping people away.

While Catholics have been encouraged to visit Rome during previous Jubilees, Francis has this time around asked cathedrals around the world to open holy doors which believers can pass through without leaving their own countries.

Papal fortress

Traditionally, passing through a holy door during a Jubilee enables a believer to benefit from special indulgences - although modern theologians tend to phrase the act as an opportunity for the faithful to renew their relationship with Christ.

Once in Rome, pilgrims who want to pass through the Holy Door at St Peter's have to register, like runners in a marathon, in a tent staffed by volunteers near the Castel Sant'Angelo, an erstwhile papal fortress located just outside the Vatican.

Groups can opt, for a small fee, to borrow a wooden cross which one of them will carry on his shoulders for the final stretch of their journey to St Peter's.

Places for papal audiences and other major events during the Jubilee are distributed at a welcome centre on the Via della Conciliazione, where pilgrims can also, for €2, buy a "parchment" - a certificate printed on regular paper - as a souvenir and record of their visit.


Read more on:    pope francis  |  vatican city

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.