Planning Ahead: Vatican City, 2016

Not long ago, Pope Francis announced that the upcoming jubilee year would be known as the Holy Year of Mercy. Now with 2016 fast-approaching, it will be an exciting time to visit Vatican City. But what should travelers be expecting if they are going to be in the area over the course of this holy time?

A jubilee is a significant year designated by the church. A year filled with blessings and pardons from God. Since 1300, these jubilee years have been called by the Church every 25 to 50 years. The 2016 celebration will break from tradition, since the last jubilee was observed during the year 2000 under Pope John Paul II, known as “the Great Jubilee.”

The logo for the 2016 Holy Year of Mercy features the phrase “Merciful Like the Father” which comes directly from the Gospel of Luke, “Be merciful, just as your father is merciful.” In his announcement, Pope Francis expressed his desire for Catholics everywhere to live by those words.

The jubilee officially begins on December 8th of this year with the Opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica and will end on November 20th of 2016 with the closing of that same door. There are already many events planned to take place over the course of the Holy Year of Mercy, including specific days designated for certain groups. Just a few examples include:

  • Apr 23rd will be the Jubilee for Boys and Girls

  • Jun 1st will be the Jubilee for Priests

  • Jun 10th will be the Jubilee for the Sick and Persons with Disabilities

  • July 26th will be the Jubilee for Youth (on World Youth Day)

  • Nov 6th will be the Jubilee for Prisoners

A full description of events and their dates can be found here. Most of the major events are scheduled to take place at either St. Peter’s Basilica or St. Peter’s Square, though other Papal basilicas, like Basilica of Saint Mary Major, will also be used.

With this time being so significant to Catholicism, travelers should expect to encounter pilgrims making their way to Rome throughout the year. Crowds will be significantly larger (especially on scheduled event dates, like those listed above). Flexibility will be essential for travel to Rome in the coming year - be sure to plan ahead, check event dates and book any hotels and services much further in advance.

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