During the Mass, the choir sang traditional Christmas carols, including The First Noel, Silent Night, and O Come All Ye Faithful.
About 1,500 people were present in the basilica for the Mass, according to the Vatican.
In his homily, Pope Francis quoted a poem by Emily Dickinson: “‘Who has not found the Heaven – below – Will fail of it above.’”
“Let us not lose sight of heaven," he said. "Let us care for Jesus now, caressing him in the needy, because in them he makes himself known."
Jesus, who was born into poverty, wants to be honored by service to the poor, the pope said.
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“On this night of love, may we have only one fear: that of offending God’s love, hurting him by despising the poor with our indifference. Jesus loves them dearly, and one day they will welcome us to heaven,” he said.
Pope Francis highlighted how the rich and poor came together at Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, where Magi and shepherds together adored the Lord.
“Everything is unified when Jesus is at the center: not our ideas about Jesus, but Jesus himself, the living One,” he said.
“So then, dear brothers and sisters, let us return to Bethlehem, let us return to the origins: to the essentials of faith, to our first love, to adoration and charity. Let us look at the Magi who make their pilgrim way, and as a synodal Church, a journeying Church, let us go to Bethlehem, where God is in man and man in God,” the pope said.
“Let us rouse ourselves, for tonight a light has been lit, a kindly light, reminding us that, in our littleness, we are beloved sons and daughters, children of the light. … Let us rejoice together, for no one will ever extinguish this light, the light of Jesus, who tonight shines brightly in our world,” he said.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.