Pope Francis conducts Christmas Eve Mass, hours after comparing Iraqi refugees to Jesus

The Pope said Jesus was also forced to flee

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Pope Francis has conducted the annual Christmas Eve late-night Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, hours after he phoned Iraqi refugees and told them they were “like Jesus”.

The Holy See made the comparison who are sheltering from Isis in a tent camp in Ankawa, because Jesus was also told there was no place for him, and was made to flee.

On Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus in a Bethlehem barn manger, as there was no room for his parents at an inn. At Easter, Christians remember his crucifixion at the hands of the Romans, and his subsequent ressurrection.

“You're like Jesus on this night, and I bless you and am close to you,“ Francis told the Iraqis, in the camp situated in a suburb of Irbil, according to the audio of the call provided by TV2000, the television of the Italian bishops' conference which arranged the hookup.

“I embrace you all and wish for you a holy Christmas,” he added.


The majority of refugees living in the Ankawa camp in northern Iraq are Christians forced to flee Isis militants, who have also brutally targeted Muslims and Yazidis.

During the Mass in St Peter's, the Pope declared that the world is in need of tenderness.

“How much the world needs tenderness today!” he said. “God's patience, God's closeness, God's tenderness.”

Tomorrow, the pontiff will give his traditional Christmas Day speech, followed by New Year's Eve vespers, and 2015 greetings a few hours later.

On 6 January, he will celebrate Epiphany Mass - the day the Magi met the baby Jesus - while on 11 January he will baptise infants in the Sistine Chapel.

Earlier this week, Francis urged Mideast Christians to remain in the region, where Christian communities have lived for 2,000 years.

In a letter addressed to the community, he urged Christians to help their fellow Muslim citizens present “a more authentic image of Islam” as a religion of peace.

Wednesday's Mass came just days after Francis excoriated the Vatican bureaucracy for a laundry list of sins, including lusting for power and suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer's.”

Many of the same cardinals, bishops and priests who received the dressing down were on hand for the Mass. Several have spoken out in recent days saying Francis was merely asking them to examine their consciences, as any Jesuit spiritual director would do, and to use the Christmas season to heal.

Additional reporting by AP