The Pope decreed the year in a vespers celebration held today at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
The Holy Father explained during his homily: "This 'Pauline Year' will take place in a special way in Rome, where for 2,000 years under the papal altar of this basilica, lies the tomb that according to experts and undisputed tradition has conserved the remains of the apostle Paul."
The Pontiff said: "In the papal basilica and Benedictine abbey attached to it, there can take place a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events, as well as various pastoral and social initiatives, all of them inspired by Pauline spirituality.
"Special attention can also be given to pilgrims who from various places will want to go to the tomb of the Apostle in a penitential way in order to find spiritual benefits.
"Meetings for study will be promoted and there will be special publications on Pauline texts, to promote the immense richness of the teaching contained in them, true patrimony of humanity redeemed by Christ.
"Also, in every part of the world, similar initiatives will be organized in dioceses, sanctuaries and places of prayer by religious institutions, institutions of study and assistance, which carry the name of St. Paul or which have been inspired by him and his teaching."
Benedict XVI explained that this year must have an important "ecumenical dimension."
"The Apostle of the Gentiles, who dedicated himself to the spreading of the good news to all peoples, spent himself for the unity and harmony of all Christians," the Pope said.
"May he guide us and protect us in this bimillenary celebration," he added, "helping us to advance in the humble and sincere search for the full unity of all the members of the mystical body of Christ."