VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is urging Christians to forgo the greed, hoarding and materialism of Christmas and to focus instead on its message of simplicity, charity and love.
Francis celebrated a Christmas Eve Mass on Monday night in St. Peter's Basilica, opening a busy week for the pope that includes a Christmas Day message and blessing, a Dec. 26 prayer, New Year's Eve vespers and a Jan. 1 Mass.
During his homily, Francis lamented that many people find meaning in possessions. He said: "An insatiable greed marks all human history, even today, when paradoxically a few dine luxuriantly while all too many go without the daily bread needed to survive."
Francis' has focused on the world's poor and downtrodden during his five-year papacy. The Catholic Church's first Latin American pope has denounced the global financial system that he says make the rich richer at the expense of the poor.
As Francis presided over festivities at home, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin was heading to Iraq to celebrate Christmas with the Chaldean Catholic community. Catholics are among the religious minorities devastated by Islamic State-inspired violence that has driven tens of thousands from their home.
Parolin's visit was a clear sign of Francis' personal solidarity.