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Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis has invited 5,000 migrants to pray with him and attend a special mass at St Peter's to mark the world day of migrants and refugees, the Migrantes Foundation announced Friday.
The January 17 event, which is also part of the Catholic church's Jubilee Year, will see a group of asylum seekers and migrants listening to Francis's Sunday address in St Peter's Square before entering the basilica through one of the 'holy doors' opened for the special year which is dedicated to the theme of mercy.
In Catholic tradition, passing through a holy door in a spirit of repentance enables a believer to be cleansed of his or her sins.
The group will be accompanied by pilgrims carrying a cross made from the wood of wrecked migrant boats that was crafted on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The cross is to be carried by pilgrims from the island, which has witnessed some of some of southern Europe's deadliest sinkings of the ongoing migrant crisis.
The communion wafers for the mass, which will be led by Cardinal Antonio Veglio, have been made by three prisoners currently serving sentences for murder in a high-security prison near Milan.
"These hosts, made by hands that have killed... bear witness that the need to be saved by the love of Christ touches every man and not only those serving a prison sentence," a Migrantes spokesman said.