World

Pope uses his New Year's Eve homily to remind people of life's fleetingness

  • Pope Francis kisses a statue of the baby Jesus as he arrives to celebrate the new year's eve vespers Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. The traditional Mass on Dec. 31contains the thanksgiving hymn ''Te Deum' for the ending year and is the last public appearance of the pope in 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis kisses a statue of the baby Jesus as he arrives to celebrate the new year's eve vespers Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. The traditional Mass on Dec. 31contains the thanksgiving hymn ''Te Deum' for the ending year and is the last public appearance of the pope in 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis leaves after visiting the nativity scene set in St. Peter's Square after celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. The traditional Mass on Dec. 31 contains the thanksgiving hymn ''Te Deum' for the ending year and is the last public appearance of the pope in 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis leaves after visiting the nativity scene set in St. Peter's Square after celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. The traditional Mass on Dec. 31 contains the thanksgiving hymn ''Te Deum' for the ending year and is the last public appearance of the pope in 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis delivers his speech as he celebrates a new year's eve vespers Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. The traditional Mass on Dec. 31 contains the thanksgiving hymn ''Te Deum' for the ending year and is the last public appearance of the pope in 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis delivers his speech as he celebrates a new year's eve vespers Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. The traditional Mass on Dec. 31 contains the thanksgiving hymn ''Te Deum' for the ending year and is the last public appearance of the pope in 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis has presided over a solemn prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica on New Year's Eve, using his homily to stress life's fleetingness.

The spiritual leader said, "How we like to be surrounded by so many fireworks, seemingly beautiful, but which in reality last only a few minutes."

As humans, he said, there is a "time to be born and a time to die" and New Year's also is a time to reflect on our mortality, "the end of the path of life."

Afterward, the 78-year-old pontiff, wearing a long white coat, a scarf and a thin skull cap, braved frigid air to admire the life-size Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square. For 20 minutes, he walked around shaking hands of people lined up behind barriers to greet him.