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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis strolled through St. Peter's Square Saturday evening during the last frigid hours of 2016, exchanging New Year's Eve greetings with the faithful.
Francis made his way through the crowd to pray in front of the life-size Nativity scene following the traditional vespers, also called evening prayer, inside St. Peter's Basilica. Along the way, he stopped to kiss children on the cheek and shake hands with well-wishers, occasionally accepting small gifts that he handed off to his body guards. People in the crowd held up their smart phones and tablets to snap pictures of the pontiff.
During the evening prayers, the pope called on the faithful to help young people find purpose in the world, noting the paradox of "a culture that idolizes youth" and yet has made no place for the young.
"We have condemned our young people to have no place in society, because we have slowly pushed them to the margins of public life, forcing them to migrate or to beg for jobs that no longer exist or fail to promise them a future," Francis said.
More than responsibility, the pope said the world owed young people "a debt" because they have been deprived of "dignified and genuine work" that would allow them to take part in society, instead condemning them "to knock on doors that for the most part remain closed."