Pope Francis led Christmas Eve mass in the Vatican on Wednesday calling for “tenderness” and “warmth” after a violence-plagued year as millions of Christians began marking the holiday.
The Argentine pontiff’s brief homily was replete with Gospel references in his Christmas Eve mass, broadcast live in 3D for the first time. “Do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us?” the pope asked in Saint Peter’s Basilica, filled with some 5,000 worshippers.
“Or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today!” he said. The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics also called on “the arrogant, the proud… (and) those closed off to others” to meet life “with goodness, with meekness.”
In Bethlehem meanwhile, hectic preparations preceded celebrations on the West Bank town’s biggest night of the year. Scouts playing bagpipes and drums marched to the church in a procession led by Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the top Catholic cleric in the Holy Land.
In his homily Twal called for “peace in Jerusalem” and “equality and mutual respect” among all faiths. He also asked for the rebuilding of Gaza, which was ravaged this summer during a 50-day Israeli aggression.