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Pope to Romans in holidays speech: Make city more livable

People watch from a balcony as Pope Francis delivers his blessing in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary, near Rome's Spanish Steps Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, an annual tradition marking the start of the city's holiday season. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has given Romans a holiday pep talk, encouraging them to do their share to make the trash-plagued, traffic-clogged city more livable.

Francis prayed on Saturday afternoon before a towering statue of the Virgin Mary near the Spanish Steps in a Dec. 8 tradition that formally opens the Italian capital’s Christmas holiday season.

Among those listening to Francis’s prayerful message was populist Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, whose administration has struggled to keep streets clean and mass transit run reliably. City Hall and Rome’s public services have been marred by corruption and other scandals over a span of decades.

Francis praised the “ordinary grace” of Romans who “patiently face the inconveniences of daily life.” He urged them to do their share to make Rome “more beautiful and livable for all.”

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