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Full text of Pope Francis’s homily at Christmas night Mass at St Peter’s

By on Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Francis kisses the statue of the Christ Child in St Peter's Basilica (AP)

Francis kisses the statue of the Christ Child in St Peter's Basilica (AP)

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).

This prophecy of Isaiah never ceases to touch us, especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy of Christmas night. This is not simply an emotional or sentimental matter. It moves us because it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us – and within us as well – there is darkness and light. In this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, there takes place anew the event which always amazes and surprises us: the people who walk see a great light. A light which makes us reflect on this mystery: the mystery of walking and seeing.

Walking: this verb makes us reflect on the course of history, that long journey which is the history of salvation, starting with Abraham, our father in faith, whom the Lord called one day to set out, to go forth from his country toward the land which he would show him. From that time on, our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way toward the promised land. This history has always been accompanied by the Lord! He is ever faithful to his covenant and to his promises. “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). Yet on the part of the people there are times of both light and darkness, fidelity and infidelity, obedience, and rebellion; times of being a pilgrim people and times of being a people adrift.

In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. “Whoever hates his brother – writes the Apostle John – is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn 2:11).

On this night, like a burst of brilliant light, there rings out the proclamation of the Apostle: “God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race” (Tit 2:11).

The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.

The shepherds were the first to see this “tent”, to receive the news of Jesus’s birth. They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks.

Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.
On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness.

To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). And I too repeat: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is our peace. Amen.

  • Dominic


  • Cristina

    Finally words that heal; these words exemplify the true love God has for all of his children.

  • Fr.WBS

    The first thing we are told about the shepherds is that they were on the watch — they could hear the message precisely because they were awake. We must be awake, so that we can hear the message. We must become truly vigilant people. What does this mean? The principal difference between someone dreaming and someone awake is that the dreamer is in a world of his own. His “self” is locked into this dreamworld that is his alone and does not connect him with others. To wake up means to leave that private world of one’s own and to enter the common reality, the truth that alone can unite all people. Conflict and lack of reconciliation in the world stem from the fact that we are locked into our own interests and opinions, into our own little private world. Selfishness, both individual and collective, makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another.

    Awake, the Gospel tells us. Step outside, so as to enter the great communal truth, the communion of the one God. To awake, then, means to develop a receptivity for God: for the silent promptings with which he chooses to guide us; for the many indications of his presence.

  • Brooke

    I am not Catholic. Indeed, my spiritual leanings are not mainstream Christian, but these words move me to tears and touch me in ways that give me hope for all of us, wherever we are on our path.

    Thank you, Pope Francis, for reminding us all that there is much light, much good still in this world.

  • NatOns

    God bless our Pope!

    In fact, these beautiful words are very much in the mould of the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, not least from last year’s Midnight Mass homily – but the media (and people in general) did not make so much effort to engage with it (or its healing balm: Emmanuel, God with us).

    ‘On this Holy Night, God himself became man; as Isaiah prophesied, the child born here is “Emmanuel”, God with us (Is7:14). And down the centuries, while there has been misuse of religion, it is also true that forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God who became man. Into the darkness of sin and violence, this faith has shone a bright ray of peace and goodness, which continues to shine.

    So Christ is our peace, and he proclaimed peace to those far away and to those near at hand (cf.Eph 2:14, 17). How could we now do other than pray to him: Yes, Lord, proclaim peace today to us too, whether we are far away or near at hand. Grant also to us today that swords may be turned into ploughshares (Is 2:4), that instead of weapons for warfare, practical aid may be given to the suffering. Enlighten those who think they have to practise violence in your name, so that they may see the senselessness of violence and learn to recognize your true face. Help us to become people “with whom you are pleased” – people according to your image and thus people of peace.’ Benedict XVI, Homily, Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, 2012.

    Merry Christmas to you and to all yours!

  • NatOns

    God Bless Our Pope!

    Dear Lord protect him from those who are his good-time friends only and those who seek to speak in his stead.

    ‘In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. “Whoever hates his brother – writes the Apostle John – is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn 2:11).’ Pope Francis, Homily, Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, 2013.

    To repeat, and repeat again, God bless our Pope!

    Christmas greetings to you, Holy Father!

  • midnight

    I expected something like that from him. I am so glad that he has shone a brilliant spotlight on the needy and rejected. We needed that because the focus on birth control, abortion and homosexuality that the American prelates have indulged in has dimmed the true meaning of Christianity and made Catholicism a part of the right wing of the GOP. Francis got it right.

  • JohnStefanyszyn

    Jorge Bergoglio’s true belief is seen in the following words from his speech:
    …”And I am happy today too, that the followers of different religious confessions are joining us in our prayer for peace….”

    (ref.: The Vatican’s official English-language translation of Pope Francis’ Christmas message ( Dec. 25, 2013), as delivered from St. Peter’s Basilica.)

    In one breath Jorge Bergoglio speaks of God and Christ….and in the next breath he acknowledges happily the existence of and prayers from “different religious confessions”.

    …for in so doing he also implies that Christ is also one of the many of other “different religious confessions”.

    But Christ is not a “different religious confession”…for there is no other but the One Creator Yehowah Elohim, whose identity is defined by His Son the Christ.

    It is clear that his first belief in and love for is that of religious freedom and freedom of self-rights….this is the god of fortresses that all embrace and worship….that President Obama has confessed to be the “LIGHT” AND “WILL” of his ‘god’….for it dictates that it is RIGHT (a right) to be free to worship ANY god….to establish for oneself what is right in one’s own eyes.

    BUT it is Only Christ that will rule the earth according to and in obedience to the Will of the One and Only True Creator Majesty and NOT according to man’s love for his “freedom” nor will He accept the prayers from “different religious confessions”.

    John Stefanyszyn

    …a bondman of the Lord and King Jesus Christ, Son of the One True God.

  • Becki Hawkins

    Bless you dear Pope Francis!!

  • f.m.bonaventure

    Mathew ch6-44&45-’Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the sons of your Father in heaven’ Rev. Popes’s message of Love on the day love of Abba took a human form is very meaningful for us who didn’t have the opportunity of receiving it in person. I’d have felt personally happy in case we kept politics out of our comments atleast for today. I’d like to quote Mtr.Teresa,’ Give them (love) till it hurts. Our Popes’s message of Love I hope will be well received.

  • Weird Al

    Merry Christmas John! I hope you have some time for R&R during the holidays. It might be good for some of that tension.

  • NatOns

    God Bless and Merry Christmas!

    You puzzle me, m, for the US American bishops’ stand on contraception, morally disordered sexual acts, and the intentional slaughter of innocent humanity by abortion seems remarkably mild – if a tad more publicised than the rest of the world’s hierarchy. True, they do seem to have become belatedly hot under the collar about the ‘Gay Marriage’ issue, and they do seem to have made it make or break issue, without instructing their flocks on exactly why this – like Pres. Obama’s troubled healthcare initiative – strikes at the heart of Catholic Action in public witness to Christ. Yet, it seems to me they have maintained an almost solidly pro-Liberal support for the issues closet to heart of Catholic Social Teaching – real affordable health care that Catholic’s can offer without moral conflict, proper reform of the economic perspective to take effective poverty-addressing measures, and dealing with the thorny issue of generous hospitality toward the illegal sojourner living in their midst – none of which sit easily with the ultra-Conservative mindset.

    It is the often party-political Republicanisation of the ultra-Conservative Catholic commentators who have mistakenly made this a Church-State or rather Political Party issue. And, indeed, the party-political Democratisation of the ultra-Liberal Catholic agitators prompted this silly trust placed in princes and in men – for none are trustworthy in such terms. Sorry to come down so heavily on your praise of the Holy Father’s admirable witness to the joyous, militant, irrepressible Light given for those lost in the darkness of sin – and that per force includes us all .. including those who advance contraception, legalised abortion, state-sanctioned marriage based on disordered sexual acts, or, by far the worse offence in God’s sight, outright and merciless hostility to the illegal immigrant as answers to other social problems.

    ‘On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness.’ Pope Francis, Homily, Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, 2013.


  • NatOns

    Merry Christmas!

    It is the prayer for peace that applies to the different religious confessions. This is simply (if confusedly) stating what Paul stated at the Areopagus in Athens; in Him we live and move and have our being. An unknown ‘god’ acknowledged in other religious confessions may indeed be the Lord God, His Word made Incarnate, whether seen in the service of Allah or Jehovah or Ba’al.

    ‘From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God* and perhaps grope for him and find him —though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,“For we too are his offspring.”’ Acts 17 : 26-28.

    One must, like Paul, be depressed at so much idolatry abounding – not least among those who ought to know better than to make their own opinions into worshipped idols as gods before God – but one must also bow to the truth that God bestows His gifts upon the just and unjust alike (and whether it pleases us to publicly acknowledge this mercy or not).

    God bless.


  • Paul Gerard

    John’s comment is legitimate and truly Catholic – unlike our current pope. Jorge Bergolgio is NOT professing Catholic Doctrine or Truth. He is an outright modernist and radical liberal.

    Let’s pray his pontificate is not too long. The Bergoglio doctrine is: “gay, Atheists, Pagan, Muslin, Hindu, Buddhist; don’t worry, don’t look for Truth, or Christ as he is just one many deists in the universe and there really is no Divine revelation, it’s as the same. Relativism is cool, I’m cool, I’m a media star on Time Magazine Man of the Year – leading a new union of no faith – pagan idolatry”.

    As our local R.C priest says: “this man’s election as pope manifestly diabolic”.

  • DrRosemaryEileenMcHugh

    “let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness.”

    As a cradle Catholic, I am grateful that Pope Francis is focusing on God’s love, and the role of Jesus, as our brother and companion, through the light and darkness, the ups and downs, of our lives.

    St Augustine wrote that God made us for Himself and our hearts will be restless until we rest in Him. An important focus for our lives is to develop a personal relationship with God.

    In my experience as a Catholic, I have found that nurturing a personal relationship with God-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit-has not been strong in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, except in the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus.

    Pope Francis is a member of that group, and I hope and pray that Pope Francis will guide us all in focusing on Jesus, instead of focusing on the doctrines, rules, and regulations of the institutional Church, which has replaced Jesus in its own thirst for power and control, in my view.

  • Paul Gerard

    o A statement that has not objective proof. The man promised reform of the dysfunctional curia -and has done nothing. Instead he issued heretical encyclicals like Evangelii Gaudium, which are contrary to the teaching of previous popes.

    Bergolgio is diabolical !!! Bergolgio openly attacks the Friars of the Immaculate because they hold to tradition – and now he closes their seminary and violates the Motu Proprio of Benedict XVI made, by banning their use of the old Mass.

    One of the few, young religious orders growing in the world and they are attacked by Bergolgio and closed down.

    Why? Are they heretics – no! Child molesters – no! Their sin? – they simply hold to the traditional faith of the Church, the liturgy and their teachings of earlier popes.

    Meanwhile Bergolgio encourages and welcomes backs heretics like Leonardo Boff and Han Kung.
    Bergolgio is the antithesis of Pius XII.

    What has Benedict done to the church by resigning?

    Even mass abortionist Obama thinks Frank’s “cool”. That really is the kiss of death from one modernist source of evil to this liberal modernist pope.

    “The pope is cool” from the biggest mass murderer in American history.

    Bergolgio says: “Don’t protect the unborn and fight abortion – it’s unimportant”. So modernist Bergolgio can rewrite the Ten Commandments too?

  • aspiring lay capuchin

    A remarkable message with lots to ponder about

  • Weird Al

    Merry Christmas to you too Paul! Give my best to your ‘local R.C priest’.

  • Mal

    So you believe that this Pope, who is against abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, greed, selfishness and all for putting the Lord’s teachings into practice, is a liberal. Please explain!

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP


  • midnight

    I am not saying that it is wrong to speak out against evils but the mistake I am discussing with regard to Francis is that the U S bishops have taken the eyes off the prize. There is an evil behind abortion, for instance, and that is poverty and hopelessness. Focus on those and I think the abortion rate (as well as the teenage pregnancy rate) will go down. The bishops were focused on the symptom. Francis is focused on the disease and its treatment.

  • midnight

    I think it’s strident and rather discouraging. Francis is focused on the disease but the U S bishops are focused on the symptom.

  • f.m.bonaventure

    most of the countries’ freedom are won only at mid night and if correct economic policies could be adopted with adequate support by the citizens then only poverty could be eradicated. in addition to this the freedom made available in the western countries along with the exposure presently made available to kids only if curtailed and controlled, will result in the reduction of the teen age pregnancy. I remember the book which stands as a witness by Nicky Cruz depicting the condition of the States which was prevalent some thirty years back. All this stands to show the deep rootedness of the corrupt thoughts in the minds of the young and the aged alike. I remember another movie by Jackie Chan which shows the plight of affairs in Bronx (Rumble in the Bronx) It will be a long drawn process and will involve spiritual guidance coupled and the process of transformation should not be disrupted by forces in thirst of blood and corrective actions by the enforcing agencies aided by uncommercialised spiritual guidance will only help the world from the present precaurious condition. Above all human beings should start thinking like humans throwing away the decisions supported by machines which may prove as a virus. All should learn to reduce the speed of the life and should strive for a life with a slower pace which will help in relaxations through purposeful entertainments than by mechanised meetings all through.

  • NatOns

    Yes, I believe I understand you better. Indeed the tone set by some bishops has been ‘strident’ or rather vainly Scrooge-like .. angrily passive-aggressive – not a pleasant mix, especially to nicely attuned worldly ears. Pope Francis does truly set a more positive tone, yet, in truth, it is no less militant, counter-cultural, or insistent; the Catholic Faith alone offers the divinely revealed Truth, not parts of the truth but the whole, nor a concoction of relative, humanly-constructed, almost-truths .. fitted to itching ears .. which make lies out of truth (let alone The Truth, the Word and His words).

    Christmas greetings to you and all yours this Stephenmass Day.

  • midnight

    I don’t agree but I am impressed with your certainty. I’m not Catholic but many of my teachers were Jesuits. Francis is himself a member of the Society of Jesus and he echoes the teachings I imbibed as a graduate student in Theology. I do agree that the message remains what it has been but the accent has been changed and that’s all to the good.

  • Mal

    It is important to know that the Pope says that every child that is unfortunately aborted has the face of Christ. He condemns this throwaway culture. One can go around condemning certain sins; another can invite people to love as Jesus did. In this love, sin does not exist.

  • Kirsten Logan

    Peace Be …

  • Dr. Jon Brownridge

    Oh please…


    merry Christmas
    actually the message is timely it remind us of our pilgrimage forcet origoo God is love and in him there is no darkness at all.

  • A protester

    “he gave us his Son to be our brother”
    Jesus is NOT our brother, He is our SAVIOUR. Nowhere in the Bible does it say otherwise.

    “He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.”
    His tent ? A kind of freemasonic pyramidal tent ?

    You won’t fool me, Jesuit Francis, for I know you work for the lightbearer.

  • Paul Gerard

    Exactly, he is a liberal, who keeps trialling novelty and is ignorant of Church tradition… just look at the man’s understanding of the liturgy, and his track-record in as Bishop Buenos Aires, where he allowed the consecrated Cathederal to be used for pagan rituals; where he allowed some Priests to live in open homosexual relationships.
    You saying that he upholds anti-homo and anti-abortion stances is a joke.

    His first few utterances were that the: “Church focuses too much on abortion and homosexuality”.

    Well that was fuel for the atheists and liberal clique, as they claimed this pope has changed teaching.

    Pope Francis has caused much damage, effectively re-assuring those who live in mortal sin and think this pope said it’s now o.k.

    Pope Francis has caused much damage in his first 4 months on the Throne of St. Peter and the world’s understanding of Catholic moral teaching.