Pope Francis has visited a live nativity re-enactment at the Church of St Alfonso Maria dei Liguori on the outskirts of Rome.
After greeting the 200 costumed participants and a large number of farmyard animals, he made his way to the most important member of the group: the 2-month-old baby Francesco, who had been baptised that morning and played the role of Jesus in the proceedings.
A group of ‘shepherds’ also placed a young lamb on the Pope’s shoulders as children sang Christmas songs and presented the Pope with a bunch of roses.
At the end of the visit, the Pope made a speech to inspire the new year, calling people to pray for all the children who will be born in 2014 and for all grandparents, whom he called 'the source of wisdom'.
The Pope had been invited to the festivities by Father Dario Criscuoli, the parish priest who organises the large-scale live nativity every year.
Criscuoli said: "The pope was so happy. He told me “Keep it up. Don't get discouraged”.