Europe

Pope celebrates Christmas Eve Mass after year of peace pleas

  • The Nativity scene, background left, and a Christmas tree adorn St. Peter's Square prior to the start of the Christmas eve mass celebrated by Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    The Nativity scene, background left, and a Christmas tree adorn St. Peter's Square prior to the start of the Christmas eve mass celebrated by Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

  • The Nativity scene, background center, and a Christmas tree adorn St. Peter's Square prior to the start of the Christmas eve mass celebrated by Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    The Nativity scene, background center, and a Christmas tree adorn St. Peter's Square prior to the start of the Christmas eve mass celebrated by Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis kisses a statue of Baby Jesus as he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    Pope Francis kisses a statue of Baby Jesus as he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis is celebrating Christmas Eve Mass in a packed St. Peter's Basilica, rounding out a year marked by his pleas for the world to better protect the innocent people caught up in wars, migrations and abject poverty.

As the Sistine Chapel choir sang "Gloria" and the basilica's bells rang out in Rome, Francis processed to the altar behind cardinals draped in golden vestments for the service celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Saturday's late night Mass is the first major event of the Christmas season for Francis, which will included his noon blessing on Christmas day.