VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis, celebrating
his first Christmas as leader of the world's 1.2
Catholics, on Christmas Day is wishing for a better world, with
peace for the land of Jesus' birth, for Syria and Africa, as well as for
the dignity of migrants and refugees fleeing misery and conflict.
spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica Wednesday to
tens of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and Romans in the square below.
He said he was joining in the song of Christmas angels with all those
hoping "for a better world," and with those who "care for others,
Francis, who last March became the first non-European pope
in 1,300 years, celebrated a solemn Christmas
Eve Mass for some
10,000 people in a packed St. Peter's Basilica
as hundreds of
others watched on mega-screens in the square
On Monday Francis has visited his predecessor, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, to exchange Christmas greetings.
The great bells
of the basilica, the same that rang to
announce his election on March 13, sounded Tuesday when
Chapel Choir intoned the Gloria, a prayer which
starts with the
words the Bible says angels sang on the night
Jesus was born in
delivered a short homily that was as simple as his
white vestments: Man can choose between darkness
"... On the
part of the people there are times of both light
and darkness, fidelity and infidelity,
obedience, and rebellion;
times of being a pilgrim people and times of
being a people
adrift," he said, speaking in Italian.
"In our personal history too, there are both
bright and dark
moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and
our brothers and
sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart
is closed, if we
are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking,
falls within us and around us," he said.
Francis, who concelebrated the Mass with more than 300
cardinals, bishops and priests, urged people not
to be afraid to
reach out to God.
"Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient,
he loves us, he
gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which
leads to the
promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens
the darkness. He
is our peace," he said.
from all over the world for the Mass and some
said it was because they felt Francis had
brought a breath of
fresh air to the Church.
bringing a new era into the Church, a Church that
is focusing much more on the poor and that is
more austere, more
lively, a Church that cares about everyone in
the world," said
Dolores Di Benedetto, from the pope's
Professor Candida Moss of Notre Dame University sees the so-called "Francis effect" as a growing phenomenon.
think Catholics who eight months ago were deeply concerned about the
Catholic church and its ability to move forward in the 21st century feel
that there is hope that things are different," said Moss.
Christmas Eve began a hectic period for the 77-year-old
former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.
On Wednesday at noon (1100 GMT/0600 ET), he will deliver
the second "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city
and the world) message
and blessing of his pontificate. The first was
On Dec. 31, he
celebrates a year-end Mass of thanksgiving
inside the basilica and the next days presides
at a New Year's
Mass to mark the Roman Catholic Church's World
Day of Peace.
On Jan. 6, he will celebrate a Mass in the square on
the Church marks the feast of the Epiphany,
the visit of the magi to the baby Jesus.