The late night Mass is the first major event of the Christmas season

By Karen Mizoguchi
Updated December 24, 2016 05:13 PM
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Pope Francis led the annual Christmas Eve Mass, known as the Midnight Mass, in a packed St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.

To ring in Christmas and celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Sistine Chapel choir sang “Gloria” and the basilica’s bells rang out across Rome.

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,” according to the Associated Press.

“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 said.

Alessandra Tarantino/AP

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 Pope, who celebrated his 80th birthday last week, delivered Christmas greetings to Vatican employees and their families on Thursday, according to Vatican Radio.

Saturday’s late night Mass, which was live streamed at 3:15 p.m. ET, was the first major event of the Christmas season, followed by the Pope’s noon Urbi et Orbi (To the city and the world) blessing on Christmas Day.