Pope Fran­cis fo­cuses on chil­dren’s plight

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Ni­cole Win­field

vat­i­can city» Pope Fran­cis urged Chris­tians to cel­e­brate the birth of Je­sus by think­ing about the plight of to­day’s chil­dren, be­moan­ing how some must es­cape bombs or flee in mi­grant boats and how oth­ers are pre­vented from be­ing born at all.

Fran­cis cel­e­brated a somber Christ­mas Eve Mass in a packed St. Peter’s Basil­ica, pro­cess­ing to the al­tar be­hind car­di­nals draped in golden vest­ments as the Sis­tine Chapel choir sang “Glo­ria” and the church bells rang out across Rome.

Fran­cis has spent much of the year de­nounc­ing the Is­lamic ex­trem­ist vi­o­lence that has driven Chris­tians from Mideast com­mu­ni­ties that date to the time of Christ. He has also de­manded Europe in par­tic­u­lar do more to wel­come refugees, say­ing Je­sus him­self was a mi­grant who de­served more than be­ing born in a manger. And he has called out the waste­ful ways of the wealthy when chil­dren and the poor die of hunger every day.

In his homily, Fran­cis urged his flock to re­flect on how chil­dren to­day aren’t al­ways al­lowed to lie peace­fully in a cot, loved by their par­ents as Je­sus was, but rather “suf­fer the squalid mangers that de­vour dig­nity.”

Among the in­dig­ni­ties, he said, are “hid­ing un­der­ground to es­cape bom­bard­ment, on the pave­ments of a large city, at the bot­tom of a boat over­laden with im­mi­grants.”

“Let us al­low our­selves to be chal­lenged by the chil­dren who are not al­lowed to be born, by those who cry be­cause no one sa­ti­ates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons,” he added.

The Mass late Satur­day was the first ma­jor event of the Christ­mas sea­son, fol­lowed by Fran­cis’ noon Urbi et Orbi (To the city and the world) bless­ing on Christ­mas Day.

In an­other ap­peal, Fran­cis called for the faith­ful to not get caught up in the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of Christ­mas — “when we are con­cerned for gifts but cold to­ward those who are marginal­ized.”

Ma­te­ri­al­ism has “taken us hostage this Christ­mas,” he said. “We have to free our­selves of it!”

The As­so­ci­ated Press

Pope Fran­cis kisses a statue of Baby Je­sus as he cel­e­brates the Christ­mas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basil­ica at the Vat­i­can. Alessandra Tarantino,

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