VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The way individual Catholics and their parishes care for the sick offers a precise measure of just how much they either are part of or are fighting the “throwaway culture” that ignores or discards anyone seen as flawed or weak, Pope Francis said in his message for the World Day of the Sick.

The care of those who are ill shows “whether we are truly companions on the journey or merely individuals on the same path, looking after our own interests and leaving others to ‘make do,'” the pope said in the message, which was released by the Vatican Jan. 10.

The Catholic Church celebrates the world day Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Pope Francis greets a child as he visits poor, sick people at a center run by the CasAmica Onlus organization on the outskirts of Rome in this Dec. 7, 2018, file photo. In his message for the 2023 World Day of the Sick, the pope said the way we treat those who are ill shows exactly what kind of a community we are. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“Experiences of bewilderment, sickness and weakness are part of the human journey,” the 86-year-old pope wrote.

But, he said, the Bible makes clear that “far from excluding us from God’s people,” those situations of vulnerability “bring us to the center of the Lord’s attention, for he is our Father and does not want to lose even one of his children along the way.”

Those who profess belief in God, he said, should do likewise, placing the sick at the center of their attention.

To illustrate his point, Pope Francis used the parable of the good Samaritan, a story he often cites to illustrate the importance of community and fraternity in contrast to cruelty and self-absorption.

“The fact that the man, beaten and robbed, is abandoned on the side of the road” in the parable “represents the condition in which all too many of our brothers and sisters are left at a time when they most need help,” the pope said.

In addition, he said, in too many cases it is not easy “to distinguish the assaults on human life and dignity that arise from natural causes from those caused by injustice and violence. In fact, increasing levels of inequality and the prevailing interests of the few now affect every human environment to the extent that it is difficult to consider any experience as having solely ‘natural’ causes.”

The problem is not only illness, the pope said, but also loneliness and the feeling of abandonment, both of which “can be overcome more easily than any other injustice, because – as the parable tells us – it only takes a moment of our attention, of being moved to compassion within us, in order to eliminate it.”

In the parable, he said, “two travelers, considered pious and religious, see the wounded man, yet fail to stop. The third passerby, however, a Samaritan, a scorned foreigner, is moved with compassion and takes care of that stranger on the road, treating him as a brother. In doing so, without even thinking about it, he makes a difference, he makes the world more fraternal.”

People need the love and support of others as they age and especially when they are ill, he said.

Usually, people are not prepared to fall sick, he said, and, often, “we fail even to admit that we are getting older.”

“Our vulnerability frightens us, and the pervasive culture of efficiency pushes us to sweep it under the carpet, leaving no room for our human frailty,” he said. And even when people do not turn away, sometimes those who are sick think they should distance themselves from loved ones so they don’t become “a burden.”

But, Pope Francis said, “this is how loneliness sets in, and we can become poisoned by a bitter sense of injustice, as if God himself had abandoned us. Indeed, we may find it hard to remain at peace with the Lord when our relationship with others and with ourselves is damaged.”

If the Catholic Church is truly to be a “field hospital,” the pope said, then its members must act.

The church’s mission, he said, “is manifested in acts of care, particularly in the historical circumstances of our time. We are all fragile and vulnerable, and need that compassion which knows how to pause, approach, heal and raise up.”

“The plight of the sick is a call that cuts through indifference and slows the pace of those who go on their way as if they had no sisters and brothers,” Pope Francis insisted.

Those who are sick, he said, “are at the center of God’s people, and the church advances together with them as a sign of a humanity in which everyone is precious and no one should be discarded or left behind.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis will celebrate the fourth annual Sunday of the Word of God Jan. 22 and, like he did last year, will confer the ministries of lector and catechist on several lay people, according to the Dicastery for Evangelization.

The theme for the 2023 celebration is: “We proclaim what we have seen,” a quotation from 1 John 1:3, the dicastery said.

A newly installed catechist receives a crucifix from Pope Francis during a Mass marking Sunday of the Word of God in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this Jan. 23, 2022, file photo. The pope’s liturgical calendar for January and early February includes Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God and vespers to close the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis began the Sunday of the Word of God to promote “the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God,” which will help the church “experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world.”

The Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 22 for the annual event was included in the Vatican’s short calendar of papal liturgical celebrations for January and early February. The calendar was published Jan. 12.

Also on the calendar is Pope Francis’ celebration of an ecumenical evening prayer service at Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls Jan. 25 to close the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The week is organized by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. The theme for 2023 is: “Do good; seek justice,” which comes from Isaiah 1:17.

The calendar also includes Pope Francis’ trip to Congo and South Sudan Jan. 31-Feb. 5, which means he will not celebrate at the Vatican the Feb. 2 feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – It is “intolerable” that conflict and wars are still raging in Ukraine and other parts of the world, Pope Francis said on World Peace Day.

People throughout the world are crying out, “No to war! No to rearmament! May resources go to development, health, food, education and jobs,” the pope said Jan. 1 after praying the Angelus with some 40,000 visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

St. Paul VI inaugurated the first World Day of Peace in 1968 as a day to be dedicated to prayer and reflection for world peace, he said.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 1, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Today, decades later, it is even more strongly apparent how “intolerable the conflict of war, which in Ukraine and other regions sows death and destruction,” is, the pope said.

“However, we do not lose hope because we have faith in God, who in Jesus Christ has opened for us the way of peace,” he said.

“The experience of the pandemic teaches us that no one can save himself alone, but that together we can walk the path of peace and development,” he said.

With the Jan. 1 celebration of the World Day of Peace, he said in his address before reciting the Angelus, “Let us regain awareness of the responsibility that has been entrusted to us to construct the future in the face of the personal and social crises we are living, in the face of the tragedy of the war.”

It can be done, he said, “if we take care of each other and if, all of us together, take care of our common home.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The day after Pope Francis told people retired Pope Benedict was “very sick” and in need of prayers, the Vatican said he had had a restful night and described him as being in serious, but stable condition.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI is pictured with Ratzinger prize winners Joseph H. H. Weiler, a professor of law at New York University School of Law, and Jesuit Father Michel Fédou, professor of dogmatic theology and patristics at the Centre Sèvres of Paris, at the Mater Ecclesia monastery at the Vatican Dec. 1, 2022. (CNS photo/courtesy Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation)

“I would like to ask all of you for a special prayer for emeritus Pope Benedict,” Pope Francis had said at the end of his weekly general audience Dec. 28.

The 95-year-old retired pope “is sustaining the church in silence,” Pope Francis said. “Remember him. He is very sick.”

“Ask the Lord to console him and sustain him in his witness of love for the church until the very end,” Pope Francis said.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that Pope Francis went to Pope Benedict’s residence after the audience to visit him.

“I can confirm that in the last few hours there has been a worsening (of Pope Benedict’s health) due to advancing age,” Bruni said. “The situation at the moment remains under control, constantly followed by doctors.”

In a statement to reporters the next day, Bruni said the retired pope had rested well overnight and “is absolutely lucid and alert.”

“Although his condition remains serious,” Bruni said, as of midday Dec. 29 he was stable.

“Pope Francis renews his invitation to pray for him and accompany him in these difficult hours,” Bruni added.

Cardinals, bishops, bishops’ conferences and faithful around the world offered prayers for the ailing former pope and the Diocese of Rome announced that an evening Mass would be offered Dec. 30 in the Basilica of St. John Lateran “for our beloved Benedict XVI.”

In the 24 hours after Pope Francis asked for prayers for his predecessor, news crews started heading to St. Peter’s Square to give updates, although there was not much new to report. The square was filled with pilgrims, tourists and families taking advantage of the holidays to see the Nativity scene and visit St. Peter’s Basilica.

On Feb. 11, 2013, Pope Benedict announced that he would retire effective Feb. 28 that year. He spent the first several months of his retirement at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo before moving into the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican Gardens where he has lived since.

The retired pope has looked increasingly frail, but as recently as Dec. 1 the foundation that promotes his theological work released photos of him meeting with the two winners of the Ratzinger Prize. He also met in August at the monastery with Pope Francis and the new cardinals the pope had just created.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Saying that retired Pope Benedict XVI was “very sick,” Pope Francis asked people to offer special prayers for him.

“I would like to ask all of you for a special prayer for emeritus Pope Benedict,” Pope Francis said at the end of his weekly general audience Dec. 28.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI is pictured with Ratzinger prize winners Joseph H. H. Weiler, a professor of law at New York University School of Law, and Jesuit Father Michel Fédou, professor of dogmatic theology and patristics at the Centre Sèvres of Paris, at the Mater Ecclesia monastery at the Vatican Dec. 1, 2022. (CNS photo/courtesy Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation)

The 95-year-old retired pope “is sustaining the church in silence,” Pope Francis said. “Remember him. He is very sick.”

“Ask the Lord to console him and sustain him in his witness of love for the church until the very end,” Pope Francis said.

The Vatican press office did not immediately respond to requests for more information about the retired pope.

On Feb. 11, 2013, Pope Benedict announced that he would retire effective Feb. 28 that year. He spent the first several months of his retirement at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo before moving into the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican Gardens where he has lived since.

The retired pope has looked increasingly frail, but as recently as Dec. 1 the foundation that promotes his theological work released photos of him meeting with the two winners of the Ratzinger Prize. He also met in August at the monastery with Pope Francis and the new cardinals the pope had just created.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The birth of Jesus in a stable “shows us God’s ‘style,’ which is closeness, compassion, and tenderness,” Pope Francis told visitors and pilgrims at his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis greets a child at his general audience Dec. 28, 2022, in the Vatican audience hall. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

On the church’s calendar Christmas was not over when the pope held his audience Dec. 28, and he insisted it is important for Christians to use the season to contemplate the meaning of Jesus becoming human and being born into the poverty and simplicity of the manger.

“With this style of his, God draws us to himself,” the pope said. “He does not take us by force, He does not impose his truth and justice on us. He wants to draw us with love, with tenderness.”

Basing his Christmas reflections on the teachings of St. Francis de Sales, a bishop and doctor of the church, Pope Francis announced at the audience that he was publishing an apostolic letter that day marking the 400th anniversary of the death of the French saint and theologian.

The letter, titled “Totum Amoris Est” (“Everything Pertains to Love”), would be published later the same day.

But rather than quoting from his apostolic letter, Pope Francis quoted from St. Francis de Sales’ meditations on Christmas and, especially, his focus on the love of God and on the poverty of Jesus’ birth.

“Who is Jesus? Looking at the manger, looking at the cross, looking at his life, his simplicity, we can know who Jesus is,” the pope said. “Jesus is the son of God who saves us by becoming man, stripping himself of his glory and humbling himself.”

In one of his letters to St. Jeanne Frances de Chantal, co-founder with St. Francis de Sales of the Visitation Sisters, the French saint wrote, “I would a hundred times rather see the dear Jesus in his crib, than all the kings of the world on their thrones.”

Pope Francis told people at the audience that the Gospel of Luke’s description of the birth of Jesus and its focus on the manger “means that it is very important not only as a logistical detail, but as a symbolic element to understand what kind of messiah” Jesus is.

His birth in a stable and his death on a cross show the way “God draws us to himself,” the pope said. “He does not take us by force, he does not impose his truth and justice on us. He wants to draw us with love, with tenderness.”

Whatever kind of person God is dealing with, Pope Francis said, “God has found the means to attract us however we are: with love. Not a possessive and selfish love, as unfortunately human love so often is. His love is pure gift, pure grace, it is all and only for us, for our good. And so, he draws us in, with this disarmed and disarming love.”

St. Francis de Sales also writes about the simplicity, the real poverty of the manger, Pope Francis said. “And, really, there is poverty there.”

Writing to the Visitation Sisters, the saint said, “Do you see the baby Jesus in the crib? He accepts all the discomforts of that season, the bitter cold and everything that the Father lets happen to him.”

“Here, dear brothers and sisters, is a great teaching, which comes to us from the child Jesus through the wisdom of St Francis de Sales,” Pope Francis said, and it is “to desire nothing and reject nothing, to accept everything that God sends us. But be careful! Always and only out of love, because God loves us and only ever wants our good.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The most important question a Christian can ask when making any decision in life is “where the greatest love is to be found,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter marking the 400th anniversary of St. Francis de Sales, a doctor of the church.

Thinking about the legacy of St. Francis, who was born in France in 1567 and died in 1622, Pope Francis said he was convinced that the French saint’s “flexibility and his farsighted vision have much to say to us,” especially in recognizing the real-life struggles of ordinary people and judging faith by love.

A likeness of St. Francis de Sales is seen in stained glass at Caldwell Chapel on the campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington May 25, 2021. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

The pope’s letter was titled “Totum Amoris Est” (“Everything Pertains to Love”) and was released by the Vatican Dec. 28, the 400th anniversary of the death of St. Francis de Sales, who was bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, co-founder of the Visitation Sisters and a prolific writer, including of tracts he would slip under the doors of people’s homes.

In a letter that quoted heavily from St. Francis’ books, “Treatise on the Love of God” and “Introduction to the Devout Life,” but also from his own exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis said the saint has much to teach the church today.

“We are challenged to be a church that is outward-looking and free of all worldliness, even as we live in this world, share people’s lives and journey with them in attentive listening and acceptance,” the pope wrote. “That is what Francis de Sales did when he discerned the events of his times with the help of God’s grace.”

“Today he bids us set aside undue concern for ourselves, for our structures and for what society thinks about us, and consider instead the real spiritual needs and expectations of our people,” the pope said.

Returning in 1602 to Paris, where he previously studied, St. Francis de Sales saw a world changing around him, the pope said, and he knew that he must respond theologically and pastorally.

“This was certainly not the first time that he had encountered individual fervent Christians, but now things were different,” the pope said. “Paris was no longer the city devastated by the wars of religion that he had known in the years of his education, or by the bitter conflicts that he had seen in the Chablais,” a region on the border of France and Switzerland.

“He encountered something unexpected: a flood ‘of saints, true saints, in great numbers and in all places,'” as St. Francis described them. “There were men and women of culture, professors of the Sorbonne, civil authorities, princes and princesses, servants and maids, men and women religious. A whole world athirst for God in a variety of ways.”

The saintly bishop developed a new approach to spiritual direction, the pope said. “It was a method that renounced all harshness and respected completely the dignity and gifts of a devout soul, whatever its frailties.”

Like the Second Vatican Council would teach 350 years later, the pope wrote, St. Francis de Sales knew that every person was called to holiness and that the call was specific to each person and his or her talents, shortcomings and state in life.

And, he said, the saint knew that the call was a grace, poured out with love.

“At the same time, this grace never makes us passive. It leads us to realize that God’s love radically precedes us, and that his first gift consists precisely in our acceptance of that love,” the pope wrote. “Each person therefore is responsible for cooperating with his or her own fulfillment, with spreading his or her wings with confident trust before the gust of God’s wind.”

“More important than any kind of useless rigidity or self-absorption,” Pope Francis wrote, St. Francis de Sales encouraged the faithful “to keep asking at every moment, in every decision, in every situation in life, where the greatest love is to be found.”

St. John Paul II, he noted, referred to St. Francis de Sales as the “Doctor of Divine Love,” not primarily because he wrote about divine love, but because “he was an outstanding witness to that love.”

“His writings were no theory concocted behind a desk, far from the concerns of ordinary people,” Pope Francis said. “His teachings were the fruit of a great sensitivity to experience.”

“To live in the midst of the secular city while nurturing the interior life, to combine the desire for perfection with every state of life, and to discover an interior peace that does not separate us from the world but teaches us how to live in it and to appreciate it, but also to maintain a proper detachment from it — that was the aim of Francis de Sales, and it remains a valuable lesson for men and women in our own time,” the pope wrote.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The day after Christmas the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, which emphasizes how the story of Jesus’ birth is not a “fairy tale,” but a call to live as witnesses of the Gospel, Pope Francis said.

Marking the feast Dec. 26, a public holiday in Italy, Pope Francis led the recitation of the Angelus prayer at noon with thousands of visitors and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis waves to visitors and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican for the recitation of the Angelus prayer Dec. 26, the feast of St. Stephen. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By putting the martyrdom of St. Stephen on the calendar the day after Christmas, he said, “the liturgy really seems to want to steer us away from the world of lights, lunches and gifts in which we might indulge somewhat in these days.”

The point, he said, is that “Christmas is not the fairy tale of the birth of a king, but it is the coming of the Savior, who frees us from evil by taking upon himself our evil: selfishness, sin, death.”

The Bible says St. Stephen was a deacon, the pope said, which “means that his first witness was not given in words, but through the love with which he served those most in need.”

At the same time, the Acts of the Apostles describes how Stephen spoke of Jesus to those he met, sharing with them the faith.

“However, his greatest testimony is yet another: that he knew how to unite charity and proclamation,” the pope said, by “following the example of Jesus” and forgiving those who were about to kill him.

St. Stephen shows that “we can improve our witness through charity toward our brothers and sisters, faithfulness to God’s word and forgiveness,” the pope said. “It is forgiveness that tells whether we really practice charity toward others and live the word of Jesus.”

Over the holidays, when many people are spending time with family and friends, there may be “someone with whom we have not gotten along, who has hurt us, with whom we have never mended the relationship,” the pope said. “Let us ask the newborn Jesus for the newness of a heart that can forgive: We all need a forgiving heart!”

Pope Francis also used the occasion once again to wish people peace — “peace in families, peace in parishes and religious communities, peace in movements and associations, peace for those peoples tormented by war, peace for the dear and embattled Ukraine.”

Noting that many people in the crowd held Ukrainian flags, the pope again said, “Let us ask for peace for this suffering people!”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With the birth of Jesus, God became flesh to share the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears of all people, especially the poor and those living daily amid danger, Pope Francis said in his Christmas message.

“He comes as a helpless child. He is born in the cold night, poor among the poor. In need of everything, he knocks at the door of our heart to find warmth and shelter,” the pope said Dec. 25 before giving his blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

Pope Francis delivers his Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 25, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square under warm, sunny skies for the blessing and for the pope’s message inviting people to pay less attention to presents and more to prayer, particularly for Ukraine and other places where war and strife challenge the angels’ proclamation of “peace on earth.”

“Let us leave behind the hue and din that deadens our hearts and makes us spend more time in preparing decorations and gifts than in contemplating the great event: the son of God born for us,” Pope Francis told people in the square and those listening by radio or watching on television or online.

“Brothers and sisters,” he told them, “let us turn our eyes to Bethlehem and listen to the first faint cries of the Prince of Peace. For truly Jesus is our peace.”

The incarnation, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus “opened the way that leads from a world closed in on itself and oppressed by the dark shadows of enmity and war, to a world that is open and free to live in fraternity and peace,” the pope said.

To follow Jesus’ path of peace, he said, “we must divest ourselves of the burdens that weigh us down and block our way,” the same obstacles that prevented King Herod from welcoming the birth of Jesus: “attachment to power and money, pride, hypocrisy, falsehood.”

In the “small and innocent face” of the baby Jesus lying in the manger, he urged, “let us see the faces of all those children who, everywhere in the world, long for peace.”

In his 10th Christmas message as pope, Pope Francis denounced the “grave famine of peace” around the globe.

Mentioning specific hot spots, he started with Ukraine, praying for those celebrating Christmas “in the dark and cold, far from their homes due to the devastation caused by 10 months of war.”

The pope urged people to continue being generous in making donations and welcoming people displaced by the fighting. His almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, was spending Christmas in Ukraine, delivering generators and warm clothing and other aid in the pope’s name.

May God “enlighten the minds of those who have the power to silence the thunder of weapons and put an immediate end to this senseless war,” he prayed.

And while Ukraine dominates the news, Pope Francis also prayed for peace in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar and across the Sahel region of Africa.

Turning to the Holy Land, “where in recent months violence and confrontations have increased, bringing death and injury in their wake,” he prayed that “there, in the land that witnessed his birth, dialogue and efforts to build mutual trust between Israelis and Palestinians may resume.”

In Lebanon, where economic and political crises continue, the pope prayed that the country can “finally rebound with the help of the international community and with the strength born of fraternity and solidarity.”

In Central and South America, where “political and social tensions” continue in several nations, the pope prayed that the light of Christ would inspire political leaders and all people of good will.

And he offered special prayers for “the people of Haiti who have been suffering for a long time.”

Knowing that many people in St. Peter’s Square and watching around the world would soon be sitting down to a festive and abundant meal, Pope Francis asked that they be mindful of “all those, especially children, who go hungry while huge amounts of food daily go to waste, and resources are being spent on weapons.”

Russia’s war on Ukraine, a major supplier of grain for the world, is putting whole nations at risk of famine, he said, condemning the use of food as a weapon of war.

Unfortunately, he said, just like 2,000 years ago, “Jesus, the true light, comes into a world sick with indifference — a terrible sickness — a world that does not welcome him and indeed rejects him, as it does with many foreigners, or ignores him, as we all too often do with the poor.”

Pope Francis prayed that this Christmas “may we not forget the many displaced persons and refugees who knock at our door in search of some comfort, warmth and food. Let us not forget the marginalized, those living alone, the orphans and the elderly who risk being set aside, and prisoners, whom we regard solely for the mistakes they have made and not as our fellow men and women.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Christ was born to touch people’s hearts and show that love is the power that changes the course of history, Pope Francis said.

However, the faithful must ask themselves, “Do we want to stand at his side? Do we draw close to him? Do we love his poverty? Or do we prefer to remain comfortably ensconced in our own interests and concerns?” the pope asked in his homily Dec. 24 as part of the nighttime liturgy.

Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus during Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“We are called to be a church that worships a Jesus who is poor and that serves him in the poor,” the pope said, calling for a renewed commitment to charitable action and concrete change.

“The church supports and blesses efforts to change the structures of injustice and sets down but one condition: that social, economic and political change truly benefit the poor,” the pope said, quoting St. Oscar Romero.

The evening Mass, which is often referred to as “midnight Mass,” has not been celebrated at midnight at the Vatican since 2009. Pope Francis celebrated the “Christmas Mass at Night” at 7:30 p.m., as he did in 2020 and 2021.

The Christmas hymn, “Noel,” was sung during the procession, and the Mass began with the Christmas proclamation, or “kalenda,” of Jesus’ birth. The pope, who was seated to the right of the altar, watched as a cloth was lifted, revealing a statue of baby Jesus.

The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang loudly announcing the birth of Christ, and several children representing different cultures placed white flowers around the crib of baby Jesus.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the danger of a Christmas filled only with “decorations and gifts, after so much consumerism that has packaged the mystery we celebrate.”

“How do we rediscover the meaning of Christmas?” the pope asked. “We need to look to the manger.”

“In the manger of rejection and discomfort, God makes himself present.”

“He comes there because there we see the problem of our humanity: the indifference produced by the greedy rush to possess and consume,” he said.

It is there that people can discover Jesus’ closeness to humanity, his choice to be present in the poor and marginalized, and his demand for “a concrete faith, made up of adoration and charity, not empty words and superficiality,” Pope Francis said.

The manger, as a feeding trough, can also symbolize a hunger for wealth and power, and people willing to consume “even their neighbors, their brothers and sisters,” he said.

“How many wars have we seen,” the pope asked, and how many places treat human dignity and freedom with contempt?

“This Christmas, too, as in the case of Jesus, a world ravenous for money, power and pleasure does not make room for the little ones, for so many unborn, poor and forgotten children,” especially those “devoured by war, poverty and injustice,” he said.

In Jesus, “every child is present. And we ourselves are invited to view life, politics and history through the eyes of children,” Pope Francis said.

With Jesus – born in a manger – he can become “our food,” feeding a hungry humanity “with his tender love,” he said. “He comes to touch our hearts and to tell us that love alone is the power that changes the course of history.”

On Christmas Eve, God is drawing near, the pope said. “From the manger, as food for your life, he tells you: ‘If you feel consumed by events, if you are devoured by a sense of guilt and inadequacy, if you hunger for justice, I, your God, am with you.'”

He said, “God was born in a manger so that you could be reborn in the very place where you thought you had hit rock bottom. There is no evil, there is no sin, from which Jesus does not want to save you. And he can. Christmas means that God is close to us: Let confidence be reborn!”

Jesus was born, lived and died in poverty, and he shows “where the true riches in life are to be found: not in money and power, but in relationships and persons,” he said.

“Let charity be reborn,” the pope said, and “may we not let this Christmas pass without doing something good” so that a little hope can be “born anew in those who feel hopeless.”

“Jesus is not satisfied with appearances” and good intentions, Pope Francis said.

Jesus wants concrete faith and the truth, he said. “He asks us to go to the bare reality of things, and to lay at the foot of the manger all our excuses, our justifications and our hypocrisies. Tenderly wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary, he wants us to be clothed in love.”