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Francis gets back to basics in first Xmas as Pope

Pontiff urges Christians to keep their focus on God, not power

07 January, 15:56
Francis gets back to basics in first Xmas as Pope (By Sandra Cordon) (ANSA) - Vatican City, January 7 - Throughout his first Christmas season as pontiff, Pope Francis maintained his emphasis on a return to basic themes of Christ's teachings, reminding his followers to constantly remember the poor and lonely. In a tweet Tuesday to the more than 11 million followers of his Twitter feed, Francis urged continued kindness and charity towards the less fortunate. "Let us leave free a place at the table for those who lack necessities, for those who are left alone," the pope tweeted on his nine-language Twitter account, @Pontifex.

That message - coming one day after the feast of the Epiphany, a national holiday in Italy that marks the end of the Christmas season - built on the pope's actions and messages during the festive period.

Francis, who has chosen to live simply in a Vatican guesthouse rather than the grand papal apartments, has repeatedly urged the public to turn away from excessive spending and partying during the holidays and instead think about the less fortunate and remember the example and teachings of Christ.

Indeed, since his election in March 2013, that has been a theme of the Argentine-born pope, who has won over the faithful with his humble, simple, spontaneous style and focus on the poorest and weakest in society.

"Come and let's open our souls and may our souls be watchful in these days as we wait (for Christmas)," the pope said during Mass just two days before Christmas at Saint Martha's House, the Vatican guesthouse where he lives.

"Watch what happens in us. See whether the Lord comes or does not come. See whether there is room for the Lord or there is room for parties, for shopping, for making noise," said the pope, who took his name from the humble medieval St. Francis of Assisi.

"Is our soul open, like the holy mother Church is open and the Virgin Mary was open? "Or is our soul closed and have we attached a very polite sign to the door that reads 'please do not disturb'?".

The pope reiterated that point with a pre-Christmas post on his Twitter account.

"Christmas celebrations are often full of sound," Francis tweeted.

"It would be good for us to make room for silence, to hear the voice of Love".

The pope had several opportunities to reiterate his message during the hectic Christmas holiday season that was filled with special events.

At noon on Christmas Day, Francis delivered his Christmas message as well as the special "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and world) blessing given by the pope on such significant occasions as Easter and Christmas. On December 26 - the feast of St. Stephen, Christianity's first martyr - Francis blasted modern "fairy tale" depictions of Christmas and criticized "the false image of Christmas, a fairy-tale, mushy image that does not exist in the Gospel".

A more challenging "authentic sense of incarnation" connects "Bethlehem and the Cross," added Francis.

"Divine salvation implies the fight against sin, passing through the narrow door of the Cross".

The pope celebrated his first New Year's Eve Vespers and the traditional Te Deum for the feast of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God by calling for a more humane and hospitable Rome in 2014, particularly towards refugees and the unemployed.

"Rome is a city full of tourists, but also full of refugees; full of people who work but also people out of work or who are underpaid," said the pontiff.

"Everyone has the right to be treated with the same attitude of acceptance and fairness," he added.

"If all of us are careful and generous towards those in difficulty, if we are able to collaborate with a constructive spirit guided by solidarity, it will be good for everyone".

The cycle of the Christmas liturgies concluded with Monday's Epiphany but throughout the celebrations, Francis used his Twitter feed to remind his followers to maintain their focus on God, Christ, and Their teachings rather than the trappings of power and wealth.

"God does not reveal himself in force or power but in the weakness and fragility of a newborn," Francis said on his Twitter account on January 2.

In the roughly nine months since his election, Pope Francis has made some forceful moves to re-energize the Catholic Church, reform its management, widen its appeal, focus on social rather than doctrinal issues and renew a drive against clerical sex abuse.

"He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing," Time magazine said last month as it named "the people's pope" its Person of the Year.

Elected after Benedict's shock resignation in February, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires has been widely hailed as ushering in a new era of Vatican reform while winning countless fans with his humility and man-of-the-people touch.

Francis has already become a "superstar", Time said.

"What makes this pope so important is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all," concluded the magazine.

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