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Nightly News   |  December 25, 2013

Pope makes appeal against war, violence

On his first Christmas as head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis called on atheists and believers of all religions to unite against war. Martin Fletcher reports from the Vatican.

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

>> francis presided over his first christmas at the vatican with a surprise outreach in the christmas day address and notable differences from his predecessor. martin fletcher has the report tonight from the vatican . [ cheers ]

>> reporter: he began humbly as usual. [ [ speaking in a foreign language ] ]

>> reporter: good morning and merry christmas . pope francis , head of the catholic church , got down to the real message. an appeal against war and violence. in syria, iraq, the congo, south sudan , everywhere. he soon departed from the prepared text, calling on atheists and believers of all religious to unite against war. the most vulnerable he said are battered women, children, the sick. his lesson of love echoes beyond his 1.2 billion followers, like this jewish family from maine.

>> we are all together in this. going forward we can do great things together.

>> reporter: the contrast between pope francis and his predecessor is clear. pope benedict last year in robes of gold embroidery and eric rmine fur. pope francis today, as simple as it gets.

>> he's awesome.

>> reporter: christmas eve said it all. overturning tradition. francis placed the baby jesus statue in the manger. a moment of humility. pope francis stressed when jesus was born he was homeless and to help the poor and the homeless is the pope's key message. we see how it plays out in rome today.

>> reporter: just minutes from the vatican in the church of santa maria , christmas lunch for 400 needy. lasagna and christmas cake . lunch in free in many churches this rome . it has significance for the poor as pope francis routinely speaks up on their behalf. as for the pope being different this man say -- [ speaking in a foreign language ]

>> reporter: -- i like him just as he is. so does a growing number of people. pope francis putting a new open face to the catholic church . martin fletcher , nbc news, rome .