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The BBC's David Willey in Rome
"For the Vatican the Holy Year has been an unqualified success"
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Saturday, 6 January, 2001, 09:40 GMT
Pope closes Holy Door
Pope closes Holy Door
The door will remain bricked up for the next 25 years
Pope John Paul has closed the Holy Door of St Peter's Basilica in Rome, formally ending the Roman Catholic Church's year-long millennium celebrations.

Hundreds of dignitaries and politicians attended the ceremony, while tens of thousands of faithful assembled in Saint Peter's Square, where huge screens had been set up for better viewing.

The closure was also broadcast live on the internet.

People waiting to pass the Holy Door
Thousands queued to pass through the Holy Door
The door will now remain bricked up for the next 25 years.

In the last few days, thousands of pilgrims have queued up to walk through the heavy bronze door.

Traditional Catholics believe that passage through the door brings them closer to eternal life.

The Pope is also on Saturday issuing new moral guidelines to the world's one billion Catholics at the start of the third Christian millennium.

The Vatican says more than 25 million people have visited Rome during the millennium celebrations, about eight million of whom have been received by the Pope.

His last jubilee appointment was with thousands of children from all over the world.

Personal account

Holy doors - marked as such in cathedrals around the world - are only opened following a decision by the pontiff.

Pope John Paul and a Maori child
The Pope's last jubilee appointment was with children
If Catholics enter one of the holy doors after confession, communion, a prayer and special sacrifices, they are granted so-called indulgences, or partial remissions of temporal punishment.

Following the closure of the doors, the Pope was due to present an apostolic letter entitled Novo Millennio Ineunte.

This has been presented by the Vatican as a personal account of the Catholic Holy Year which began on Christmas Eve 1999.

It is expected to give guidance on how to carry on the Holy Year spirit into the third millennium.

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See also:

17 Dec 00 | Europe
Circus mass ends Vatican jubilee
23 May 00 | Talking Point
Pope at 80: time to retire?
24 Dec 99 | Europe
Pope launches Holy Year
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