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Pope Francis celebrates first Christmas Eve Mass

Pope Francis has celebrated his first Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican. In a brief homily, the newly elected pontiff called on the faithful to lead humble lives.

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Pope Francis leads Christmas Eve mass

Pope Francis celebrated his first Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City on Tuesday. The 77-year-old pontiff used his homily to emphasize the importance of humility within Christian belief, which has been the primary message of his papacy in its first nine months.

In a break with tradition, Pope Francis began the Mass on Tuesday by carrying a statue of the baby Jesus to the altar during the opening procession, a task generally given to an aide. He then kissed the statue and placed it in the manger in the life-size Nativity Scene behind the altar.

The pontiff spoke about the significance of the birth of Jesus within Christian belief, extending the message to discourage the faithful from lives centered around material wealth rather than love and spiritual well-being.

"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," the pope said, referring to Jesus.

"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, then darkness falls within us and around us," he said.

"God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all."

An estimated 300 cardinals and bishops, as well as some 10,000 people were in attendance on Tuesday night.

Festivities began earlier on Tuesday with the unveiling of a life-size Nativity Scene crafted by Naples artisan Antonio Cantone.

The pope was scheduled to deliver his Urbi et Orbi ("to the city and to the world) blessings at noon on Christmas Day, as well as a speech in several languages.

kms/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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