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The Latest: Pope: Choose simplicity over Christmas greed

Pope Francis kisses a statue of Baby Jesus as he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Latest on Christmas Eve observances at the Vatican (all times local):

10:05 p.m.

Pope Francis is urging Christians to forgo the greed, hoarding and materialism of Christmas and to focus instead on its message of simplicity, charity and love.

Francis celebrated a Christmas Eve Mass on Monday night in St. Peter’s Basilica, opening a busy week for the pope that includes a Christmas Day message and blessing, a Dec. 26 prayer, New Year’s Eve vespers and a Jan. 1 Mass.

During his homily, Francis lamented that many people find meaning in possessions. He said: “An insatiable greed marks all human history, even today, when paradoxically a few dine luxuriantly while all too many go without the daily bread needed to survive.”

Francis’ has focused on the world’s poor and downtrodden during his five-year papacy. The Catholic Church’s first Latin American pope has denounced the global financial system that he says make the rich richer at the expense of the poor.

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6:25 p.m.

Pope Francis is ushering in Christmas with a late-night Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, while his deputy is traveling to Iraq to celebrate with the country’s long-suffering Christians.

The Mass on Christmas Eve is one of the highlights of the Vatican’s liturgical year. Monday’s service starts a busy week for Francis. The 82-year-old pope’s schedule also includes a Christmas Day message and blessing, a Dec. 26 prayer, New Year’s Eve vespers and a Jan. 1 Mass.

As Francis presided over festivities at home, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin was heading to Iraq to celebrate Christmas with the Chaldean Catholic community. Catholics are among the religious minorities devastated by Islamic State-inspired violence that has driven tens of thousands from their home.

Parolin’s visit was a clear sign of Francis’ personal solidarity.

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