“Bangui is today the spiritual capital of the world,” Pope Francis said as he opened the Holy Door of Bangui’s cathedral on Sunday--the first time a Pope has opened a Holy Door outside Rome. Pope Francis proclaimed: “We all pray for peace, mercy, reconciliation, pardon, love. Throughout the Central African Republic and in all the nations of the world which suffer war, let us pray for peace. And together we all pray for love and peace. We pray together.”

For the first time in history Pope Francis opens a Holy Door outside of Rome--at Bangui's Cathedral #PopeInCAR https://t.co/eNVSPdDkrm

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) November 30, 2015

The Pope opened the Holy Door in the Central African Republic’s capital before the beginning of Sunday Mass Nov. 29. The Jubilee of Mercy does not begin until Dec. 8, but Pope Francis decided to open the Holy Door in the cathedral of Bangui as a sign of prayer and solidarity with the country. The Central African Republic is an active warzone following the December 2012 uprising which led to the overthrow of the president. About 6,000 people have died in the conflict, with several thousands more displaced. The rite of the opening of the Holy Door is intended to symbolize that the Church’s faithful are offered an “extraordinary path” toward salvation during the time of jubilee. As part of the Holy Year for Mercy, holy doors for the first time will be designated in dioceses. These will be located either in the cathedral, in a church of special significance or a shrine of particular importance for pilgrimages. Each of the four major basilicas in Rome has a holy door. These are normally sealed shut from the inside so that they cannot be opened. The doors are only opened during jubilee years so that pilgrims can enter through them in order to gain the plenary indulgence that is connected with the jubilee. Pope Francis’ Sunday homily emphasized that the power of God’s love can overcome “unprecedented devastation.” He called on Christians to be leaders in showing mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. He also called on those involved in unjust conflict  to lay down their weapons. “Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace,” he said. Pope Francis will open the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome when the Holy Year officially begins Dec. 8.