Pope Francis has ushered in his first Christmas as pontiff, likening Jesus' birth to a burst of light on the sometimes dark moments of human history, marked by pride and ambition.
The 77-year-old Francis celebrated Christmas Eve Mass late Tuesday in St. Peter's Basilica, returning to rest in his Vatican lodgings barely 12 hours before he was due to return to the basilica.
At noon (1100 GMT) Wednesday, Francis was scheduled to deliver a traditional Christmas day message meant for a worldwide audience. Tens of thousands of tourists and Romans are expected to gather in St. Peter's Square for his speech and blessing delivered from the central balcony of the basilica.
At the Tuesday night Christmas service, Francis drew on the humility theme of his nine-month-old papacy as he cited Jesus' humble beginning as a poor and vulnerable baby. "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," Francis said of Jesus as he delivered his homily in the basilica, packed with the faithful.
He noted that the first to receive news of Jesus' birth were shepherds, who in society were considered "among the last, the outcast."