Europe

Pope recalls poor families as Rome holiday shopping begins

  • Pope Francis prays in front of a statue of the Vergin Mary in downtown Rome, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, on occasion of the Immaculate Conception feast. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis prays in front of a statue of the Vergin Mary in downtown Rome, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, on occasion of the Immaculate Conception feast. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis prays as flowers are being laid to pay respect to the statue of the Vergin Mary in downtown Rome, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, on occasion of the Immaculate Conception feast. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis prays as flowers are being laid to pay respect to the statue of the Vergin Mary in downtown Rome, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, on occasion of the Immaculate Conception feast. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis looks up at a statue of the Vergin Mary in downtown Rome, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, on occasion of the Immaculate Conception feast. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis looks up at a statue of the Vergin Mary in downtown Rome, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, on occasion of the Immaculate Conception feast. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis has recalled struggling families, the jobless and those forced to take "undignified" work as Rome's holiday season begins.

Francis drew attention to those on society's margins at an appearance Thursday afternoon in Rome's Spanish Steps swank shopping district.

The annual appointment on Dec. 8, a Catholic feast day honoring the Virgin Mary, and a day off from work for most Italians, signals the traditional start of Romans' holiday shopping and preparation.

Standing at the foot of a towering column topped by a statue of Mary, Francis prayed for families "who struggle ever harder because of many internal and outside problems."

He also singled out workers, "who, for necessity, struggle to do undignified labor, those who lost a job, or can't find one."