Pope Francis arrived to Manger Square in Bethlehem in the popemobile. He celebrated Mass before 5,000 people, most of them were from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The Mass started with Christmas carols, since the square marks the birthplace of the Baby Jesus.
During his homily Pope Francis talked about children. He explained that the best way to check if a society is healthy, is to watch how it treats its children, beginning at conception.
"Great numbers of children continue to live in inhuman situations, on the fringes of society, in the peripheries of great cities and in the countryside. All too many children continue to be exploited, maltreated, enslaved, prey to violence and illicit trafficking. Still too many children live in exile, as refugees, at times lost at sea, particularly in the waters of the Mediterranean. Today, in acknowledging this, we are ashamed before God, before God who became a child.”
From children who are forced to become child soldiers, to those who die from hunger and illnesses they receive no treatment for... Pope Francis referred to all of these situations, and added that helping children goes beyond fixing their impoverished situations.
"Are we perhaps people who use fine and pious words, yet exploit pictures of poor children in order to make money? Are we ready to be there for children, to "waste time” with them? Are we ready to listen to them, to care for them, to pray for them and with them? Or do we ignore them because we are too caught up in our own affairs?”
For the Pope, "wherever children are accepted, loved, cared for and protected, the family is healthy, society is more healthy and the world is more human.”
The Mass took place before a mural painting which depicted the three Popes who visited where Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He used a wood crosier crafted by Christian artisans from the region.