Pope Francis encourages people to help the needy at scaled-back Christmas Eve service

Pope Francis encourages people to help the needy at scaled-back Christmas Eve service
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Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope Benedict XVI says he attended meeting to discuss abusive priest Pope notes 'rising tensions' in Ukraine, calls for talks Pope promises justice for abuse victims day after Ratzinger report MORE urged people to help the needy in a scaled-back Christmas Eve Mass in Vatican City.

“The Son of God was born an outcast, in order to tell us that every outcast is a child of God,” the pontiff told the small audience of less than 100, according to Reuters. “God came among us in poverty and need, to tell us that in serving the poor, we will show our love for Him.”

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Francis called for listeners to mark the season by considering “our injustice towards so many of our brothers and sisters” rather than “our endless desire for possessions.”

While the pope’s Christmas Eve homily is typically heard in-person by some 10,000 people, coronavirus precautions cut this year’s crowd to less than 100 at St. Peter's Basilica.

All those in attendance this year wore masks, except for the pope and a small choir. The Mass began early, as the area remains under a 10 p.m. curfew, according to Reuters.

The pope is set to read a separate Christmas message on Friday. Unlike previous years, he will read the address from a hall in the Vatican. The event typically draws tens of thousands of people to St. Peter’s Square, but under current restrictions, the square will be closed to the public and all papal events will be livestreamed.

Italy, one of Europe's hardest-hit countries during the pandemic, has shut down all nonessential retailers from Dec. 24-27. Stores will close again from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3 and Jan. 5-6. Residents will only be permitted to travel for work, emergencies or health care during that same period, Reuters reported.