Image: Pope's midnight Christmas Mass
Ettore Ferrari / EPA

Nightly News   |  December 24, 2013

Pope Francis delivers first Christmas homily

Pope Francis offered a traditional lesson of light and love during his first Christmas Eve midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. NBC's Martin Fletcher reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a live picture of bethlehem tonight, and the church of the nativity , believed to be the birth place of jesus, where thousands of christian pilgrims gathered for celebrations around the world. their turnout was in record numbers, and the first christmas mass for pope francis . good evening.

>> reporter: good evening to you, pope francis 's message, god loves us and gave us his son to light our darkness. and a christmas message from a most untraditional pope. midnight mass in st. peter's basilica in the vatican. and it didn't take long for pope francis to break with tradition, placing the statue of baby jesus in the manger himself, instead of an aide doing it, in keeping with his theme of humility. god loves us, he gave us his son, the tradition christmas message of light and love from a most untraditional pope. in just months, pope francis has charged the world.

>> his message of hope and love translates in every language. he is humble, definitely a people's pope.

>> reporter: the leader of 1.2 billion catholics, he still comes across as a kindly grandfather, not standing on ceremony. reaching out to all, especially the children, the poor, and the abandoned and the afflicted. opening the doors of the church. on gay priests, he said who am i to judge? on women in the church, he says they are essential. a change in the governing, or style.

>> there is certainly a style change , which is simple. but he wouldn't throw out core doctrine.

>> reporter: his message is tougher, clean up your act.

>> if you're going to teach as a church you want to be able to give an example of honesty.

>> reporter: and he is setting an example. he swapped the papal limo for a ford focus . and instead of the palace, he is living in a two-room apartment, which he left yesterday to pray with pope benedict . francis said, pray for me. tonight, he was pope francis in the splendor of the basilica, leading the catholic world in prayer. as for the new year, he has already served notice that it may be a time of change. he has brought in outside analysts to recommend ways to improve the running of the catholic church . tamron?

>> martin fletcher , thank you.

>>> up next, an unusual find