Pope calls for greater empathy in Christmas Eve mass25 december 2014, 13:29
Pope Francis urged people to have greater empathy towards family and friends with problems in his Christmas Eve mass on Wednesday, saying the world "needs tenderness" and warmth, AFP reports.
"Do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us?" the Argentine asked in his traditional homily delivered 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 78-year-old pontiff, wearing white vestments with gold trim, had entered the vast basilica in a solemn procession flanked by cardinals intoning the Kalenda, a Gregorian chant proclaiming the birth of Jesus Christ.
The pope then removed a cloth from a statuette of a smiling baby Jesus that two children, from Syria and Lebanon, had carried into the sanctuary, and kissed the figure.
The short homily laden with Gospel references was a far cry from his barbed Christmas speech to cardinals, bishops and priests on Monday.
In an unprecedented outburst, the pope lambasted the Vatican's bureaucracy, listing 15 "ailments" within the Church, including lust for power and "spiritual Alzheimer's", which he hoped to see cured in the new year.
Among the ills was lack of empathy, with the pope warning against "the sickness of indifference towards others, when each person thinks only of themselves and loses the sincerity and warmth of human relationships."
In the Christmas Eve address, the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics called on "the arrogant, the proud... (and) those closed off to others" to meet life "with goodness, with meekness."
"The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, the pontiff offered Christmas greetings to Iraqis living in a displaced people's camp near the main Kurdish city Arbil.
He used a satellite phone connection provided by Catholic channel TV 2000 to offer them his support.
"Dear brothers, I am close to you, very close to you in my heart," the pope was quoted as telling the refugees by Italian press agency AGI.
Many Christians have fled fighting to seek refuge in Arbil.
"The children and the elderly are in my heart," Francis also told the Iraqi refugees in the Ankawa camp, among some 150,000 Christians displaced in Iraq.
Wednesday's mass was broadcast live in 3D for the first time, with images of the crowds of faithful massing in and around the tiny city state captured by drones.
The festivities continue Thursday, Christmas Day, with the pope delivering his traditional "urbi et orbi" message "to the city and the world" at 1100 GMT.