p class=”western” align=”left”>Pope Francis delivers blessing while praying at statue of Mary near Spanish Steps in RomeBy ROSIE SCAMMELL

© 2015 Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is warning Catholics about con artists demanding money to pass through a holy door, such as the one opened in St. Peter’s Basilica and other churches for the Vatican’s jubilee year, telling them salvation cannot be bought.

Be careful that there’s not someone a bit quick and too cunning that tells you that you must pay. No! You don’t pay for salvation. You don’t buy salvation. The door is Jesus, and Jesus is free!” the pope told crowds gathered Wednesday (Dec. 16) for his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Holy doors are being opened in cathedrals around the world as part of the jubilee year, which opened on Dec. 8 and runs until Nov. 20, 2016. The Catholic Church teaches that in making a pilgrimage through one such door, they evoke the passage from sin to grace.

Francis reminded pilgrims that the journey must be guided by faith rather than money:

(Jesus) himself spoke of those that enter not as they must, and simply says that they are thieves and bandits. Again, be careful: Salvation is free.”

Whereas holy doors are traditionally opened only in churches in Rome, for the current jubilee year the pope asked for doors to be opened to Catholics globally.

With millions of pilgrims expected to take part in the jubilee in the coming months, the Vatican has been wary of criminals in search of a profit. Ahead of the jubilee launching, the Holy See created a special  logo and urged pilgrims to be guided only by official information.

The Italian authorities are also on the lookout for fraudsters: On Monday, officials seized thousands of fake papal blessings. The 3,500 fraudulent parchments were written in numerous languages and valued at more than $75,000.