25 Dec 2018

Pope calls for more compassion towards the poor

6:52 pm on 25 December 2018

In his traditional Christmas Eve Mass, the Pope has urged people in the developed world to seek a simpler, less materialistic life and condemned the increasing gap between rich and poor.

Pope Francis celebrates a mass on Christmas eve.

Pope Francis celebrates a mass on Christmas eve. Photo: AFP

Pope Francis, 82, marking the sixth Christmas of his papacy, led a solemn service for nearly 10,000 people in St Peter's Basilica.

Security has been tight around the Vatican and many other tourist areas in Rome for the Christmas season.

Last week police in southern Italy arrested a Somali man suspected of having been a member of Islamic State and who had threatened to bomb churches in Italy, including St Peter's.

In his homily, Pope Francis said the infant Jesus, born in poverty in a stable, should make everyone, particularly those who have become "greedy and voracious," reflect on the real meaning of life.

"Let us ask ourselves: 'Do I really need all these material objects and complicated recipes for living? Can I manage without all these unnecessary extras and live a life of greater simplicity?'" Pope Francis said.

"In our day, for many people, life's meaning is found in possessing, in having an excess of material objects. An insatiable greed marks all human history, even today, when, paradoxically, a few dine luxuriantly while all too many go without the daily bread needed to survive," he said.

Pope Francis, the first pope from Latin America, has made defending the poor a hallmark of his papacy.

On the weekend, the Vatican said he had given the homeless in Rome a Christmas gift of a new clinic in St Peter's Square where they can get free medical help.

The Catholic charity Caritas estimated late last year that there are more than 16,000 homeless in Rome and the number congregating near the Vatican has grown visibly in recent years, especially at night when they cluster under arcades to sleep.

The Christmas Eve papal Mass was the first held with a new, energy-saving lighting system for the largest church in Christendom. It employs 100,000 LEDs, using only 10 percent of the energy of the previous system.

On Christmas Day local time, Pope Francis will deliver his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica, the same balcony where he first appeared after his election on 13 March, 2013.


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