An Invitation To Party With The PopeFranco Origlia/Getty Images
Since his papacy began in 2013, Pope Francis has won over Catholics and non-Catholics alike with his approachable style and calls for inclusiveness. In 2016, he greeted and blessed parishioners around the world, and spent much of the year celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy (Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016). Pope Francis announced this special time of prayer and remission of sins in mid-2015, with the goal of making it a worldwide event.
"When we recognize our sins and we ask forgiveness there is a party in Heaven. Jesus throws a party! This is his mercy: Do not be discouraged."- Pope Francis
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During his travels, Pope Francis placed himself at the center of world issues, no matter how controversial. He met with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church; joined in discussions about the European refugee crisis, calling on the world to stand in solidarity with those fleeing war and hunger; visited Cuba and met with the late Fidel Castro; and joined physicist Stephen Hawking at a science symposium.
For Catholics, Francis has emerged as a leader with progressive tendencies, speaking frequently about the importance of protecting the environment, and empowering Catholic priests to forgive abortion, which the Church considers a “grave sin.” He’s also stayed busy communicating with his 10 million Twitter followers--and in March 2016, he announced that he was “beginning a new journey… to walk with you along the path of mercy and the tenderness of God.” He’d joined Instagram.
On his way to Mexico in February, the Pope stopped in Havana to meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. This was the first meeting of the leaders of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches since they split in 1054.
Pope Francis washed the feet of migrants at the Center for Asylum Seeker of Castelnuovo di Porto as part of Holy Thursday celebrations in March. The ceremony evokes Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.
Pope Francis welcomes a group of Syrian refugees at Rome’s Ciampino airport in April. Twelve refugees accompanied Pope Francis’s return to Rome after a visit to the Greek Island of Lesbos, and were housed in the Vatican in an effort to highlight the EU’s controversial deal allowing Greece to send migrants back to Turkey.
Pope Francis poses with refugees during his general audience in Aula Paolo VI at the Vatican in August.