Pope Francis has proclaimed a special year of efforts by the Catholic Church to be more merciful and less judgmental.

At St. Peter's Basilica Saturday evening, he listened as a Vatican prelate read excerpts from a papal bull, or decree, in which Francis proclaimed an "Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy" Holy Year. The year begins on Dec. 8 with Francis' opening the normally closed Holy Door in the back of the basilica, and ends on Nov. 20, 2016.

Francis says the church must talk about God "in a more accessible way" and avoid "fortress" mentalities because its credibility depends on more mercy and less severity.

He announced that in cathedrals worldwide, a special "door of mercy" will stay open during Holy Year so churches become an "oasis of mercy."