Today’s refugees escape from their homes just as Joseph and Mary had to before Jesus was born, Pope Francis said in his midnight mass in St. Peter’s Church on Christmas Eve.
‘For many, the departure is filled with hope, hope for the future, for many others, this departure is only a struggle to survive,’ said the pope.
He said that Mary and Joseph came to a land ‘where there was no room for them’.
‘So many footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary.
We see traces of whole families who are forced to flee in our time,’said the pope.
He expressed hope that everyone sees Jesus in ‘all who come into our cities, into our history, into our lives.’
‘In his poverty and humiliation, Jesus shows us that true strength and true freedom are shown by honouring and supporting the weak,’ said the 81 year old Catholic church leader.
The midnight mass marks the transition from advent to Christmas, and is one of the most important ceremonies in the Catholic liturgy.
The pope entered the church of St. Peter with a silver crook crowned with a cross.
In front of him was a procession of cardinals and other important clergy.
Before the mass began, he lifted a cloth, infant doll, which thus symbolised Jesus’ birth. After the ceremony, the doll is placed in the Christmas cup. Eleven children from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America laid down flowers by the altar.
The mystery of Christmas
In a greeting to believers earlier in the day, Francis encouraged Catholics to ‘stand up in prayer and silence in front of the crib, thus worshiping the mystery of Christmas.’
The Pope also called for ’a gift of peace for the world,’ and prayed for abducted priests, nuns and laymen to be released. Additionally, he prayed for the many who have been affected by the tropical storm that has ravaged the south of the Philippines.
‘I want to pray for the people at Mindanao. May the gracious Lord receive the souls of the dead and comfort those who suffer from this disaster’ he said.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today