25 Dec 2011

Look beyond the glitter, Pope urges

6:37 pm on 25 December 2011

Pope Benedict XVI has urged people to look beyond the glitter and commercialism of the Christmas season.

The pontiff held Christmas Eve mass in St Peter's Basilica, attended by about 10,000 people and watched on television by millions more throughout the world.

Pope Benedict said migrants, the poor and the the suffering should not be forgotten, and urged the congregation to rediscover the real significance of the humble birth of Jesus.

At the start of the service, the 84-year-old was wheeled up the central aisle of of the basilica standing on a mobile platform, which he has been using since October.

The Vatican says it is to conserve his strength, allow more people to see him and guard against attacks such as one on Christmas Eve, 2009, when a woman lunged at him and knocked him to the ground. He is believed to suffer from arthritis in the legs.

"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity," he said in his homily.

"Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."

"... let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart," he said.

The pope called for an end to violence, for oppressors to put down their "rods" and for all to become peacemakers.

On Christmas Day, the pope will deliver his twice-yearly Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message and blessing from the central loge of St Peter's Basilica.