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Pope Francis Holds Christmas Eve Mass

Pope Francis kneels as he leads the Christmas night Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Dec. 24, 2014.

On Christmas Eve, Pope Francis called on the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics to remember that God's message of peace "is stronger than darkness and corruption."

Thousands gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica Wednesday night to hear the pope lead a solemn Christmas Eve Mass. He urged Christians to allow God to love them, emphasizing just how much the world needs tenderness today.

Before the Mass, the pope telephoned Christian refugees at a camp in Iraq. He told them, "You are like Jesus on Christmas night. There was no room for him either, and he had to flee to Egypt later to save himself."

The refugees have fled Islamic State fighters who have persecuted Shi'ite Muslims, Christians and others in Syria and Iraq.

The pope's phone call and nighttime Mass kicked off a busy few weeks for the 78-year-old pontiff. His schedule includes his traditional Christmas Day speech, New Year's Eve vespers and 2015 greetings a few hours later.

In mid-January, he will give his annual foreign policy address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See before boarding a plane for a weeklong trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

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