Francis cradles a baby Jesus statue at start of his first papal Christmas Eve Mass at Vatican - InfoNews

Current Conditions

Sunny
2.3°C

Francis cradles a baby Jesus statue at start of his first papal Christmas Eve Mass at Vatican

Pope Francis holds a statue of baby Jesus as he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
December 24, 2013 - 2:45 PM

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis lauded Jesus' humble beginning as a poor and vulnerable baby as he celebrated his first Christmas Eve Mass as pontiff Tuesday in St. Peter's Basilica.

"You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich, and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable," Francis said of Jesus as he delivered his homily in the basilica, packed with faithful.

Francis has dedicated much of his nine-month-old papacy to drawing attention to the plight of the poor, of children, and other vulnerable members of society.

He noted that the first to receive news of Jesus' birth were shepherds, who in society were considered "among the last, the outcast."

The bells of St. Peter's rang as Francis, who turned 77 a week ago, walked briskly up the main aisle of the basilica for the ceremony, which began Tuesday 2 1/2 hours before midnight. Keeping with the theme of humility he has set for his new papacy, Francis carried the statue instead of an aide, and kissed a knee of the figure of the newly born Jesus.

The occasional wail of babies in the basilica contrasted at times with the sweet voices of the choir.

The Argentine-born pope has also encouraged his flock to be a joyful church, and he called Jesus' "the light who brightens the darkness."

In the world's history and our own personal history, Francis said, "there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. " He added "if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us."

Francis has applied this same vision to the heart of the Vatican's own working, saying in past remarks there is no place for person ambition in the clerical hierarchy. Rather, he has insisted, the Catholic church must be one of service to those in need.

Earlier, in the Holy Land, thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world packed the West Bank town of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations, bringing warm holiday cheer to the biblical birthplace of Jesus on a cool, clear night.

The heavy turnout, its highest in years, helped lift spirits in Bethlehem as leaders expressed hope that the coming year would finally bring the Palestinians an independent state of their own.

"The message of Christmas is a message of peace, love and brotherhood. We have to be brothers with each other," said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, as he arrived in town.

At the Vatican during the homily, Francis quoted the Apostle John, saying "'whoever hates his brother is in the darkness'" and "'does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.'"

The basilica ceremony was the pope's only public Mass for Christmas. On Wednesday, Christmas Day, Francis will deliver his Christmas message, meant for the world, from the basilica's central balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square.

As he left the basilica in a procession, Francis was preceded by 10 children carrying flowers, a pair of children each from Italy, the Philippines, Lebanon, his native Argentina and Congo.

___

AP reporter Mohammed Daraghmeh contributed to this report from Bethlehem.

News from © The Associated Press, 2013
The Associated Press

  • Popular kelowna News
  • Comments
  • Pier 1 closing all of its stores in Canada
    Pier 1 Imports, Inc. announced today that it has entered into bankruptcy protection and is pursuing a sale. The retailer  commenced voluntary Chapter 11 proceedings in the U.S. Bankrupt
  • Vernon's Atlantis waterpark gets a new name
    A popular Vernon waterpark is starting its transformation with a new name. Formerly known as Atlantis Waterslides, the waterpark, located north of the city along Highway 97, has been renamed
  • Killing of 7-year-old girl stokes anger in Mexico
    MEXICO CITY - The killing of a 7-year-old girl on the southern outskirts of Mexico City has stoked rising anger over brutal slayings of women, including one found stabbed to death and skinned earl
  • Mammoth's tooth found in Williams Lake and preserved for decades by B.C. family
    What was once part of a mammoth-sized smile now is a very old conversation starter in Bryan Johnson's Vancouver home. Johnson's stepfather found a mammoth tooth in a creek at the sou
  • Vernon family captures mesmerizing melting ice
    A Vernon family was on their way home from Kelowna when they made a pit stop after noticing a beautiful scene along Wood Lake. Matthew Royal and his daughters noticed how “cool”
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile