Pope Francis called on humanity Sunday not to let sadness prevail because of the many forms of violence afflicting the world.
Francis cited no specific violent event in his homily in a Rome basilica, St. John in Lateran. But he said: "We can't let ourselves be overcome by weariness. No form of sadness is allowed, even if we would have reason to, because of the many worries and multiple forms of violence which wound our humanity."
The ceremony was part of the special church Holy Year highlighting his emphasis on the importance of mercy and pardon.
After opening a symbolic Holy Door in the ancient cathedral, Francis told the faithful that "God doesn't love rigidity" but is tender.
Since being elected pontiff in 2013, Francis has tried to reshape the image held by many of the Roman Catholic church as one defined largely by rigid dogma. His predecessor in the papacy was Benedict XVI, who had long served as the Vatican's watchdog of doctrinal orthodoxy.
Francis, instead, wants the church to be characterized by forgiveness. The Holy Year, which formally began on Dec. 8, when Francis opened the ornate bronze Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica, marks the start of "the time of great pardon," Francis said in his homily.
To emphasize his attention to those living in poverty or otherwise marginalized, Francis anticipated the official start of the Holy Year while on a pilgrimage to Africa in late November. Then, he pushed open the simple wooden door at the cathedral in Bangui, in conflict-torn Central African Republic.
The Holy Year runs through Nov. 20.