While celebrating his second anniversary in the papacy this Friday, Pope Francis announced a Jubilee Year focused on one the concepts he most often preaches: mercy.

The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio made the revelation during his sermon at a Lenten penitential service, where the unexpected announcement won the applause of those attending the ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica.

Francis will dedicate the Jubilee to the virtue of mercy, to which he has referred on multiple occasions and which is the basis of the episcopal motto that he chose when he became a bishop: "Miserando atque eligendo" (He looked at him with mercy and He chose him).

During his sermon he said that "no one can be excluded from the mercy of God."

The Argentine pontiff acknowledged that "I have thought about how the Church can make clear its mission of being a witness of mercy," and concluded that "it's a journey that starts with a spiritual conversion. For this reason I have decided to declare an Extraordinary Jubilee that has the mercy of God at its center. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy."

It will begin on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and will come to an end on Nov. 20, 2016, the date when the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is celebrated.

The tradition of Jubilee, or Holy Year, goes back to the year 1300, when Pope Boniface VIII decreed that it must be celebrated every century.

However, since the year 1475 it has been called every 25 years to allow each generation to experience at least one ordinary Jubilee, while the extraordinary ones are announced based on some important occurrence.

In the extraordinary Jubilee he has called, Francis will honor the 50th anniversary of the closure of the 1962-1965 Vatican II council and will encourage the church to continue on the path of that turning point in church doctrine and liturgy.

The pope's announcement came as he celebrated the two years since that rainy afternoon when a cardinal "from the end of the world" appeared on the balcony of the central loggia of the basilica to greet the world as Francis.

Precisely this Friday, in an interview on Mexico's Televisa television, the first Latin American pope made a surprising statement in acknowledging that "I have a feeling my pontificate will be brief. Four or five years, I don't know."

He also said he didn't like to travel very much and sometimes longs for home and anonymity.

What he'd really like to do someday, he said, would be to walk out of the Vatican without being noticed and "go and eat a pizza." 

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