Pope Francis: Christmas Is ‘Not Alienating’; It ‘Expands the Heart’

Pope Francis prays during a mass on Christmas eve marking the birth of Jesus Christ on December 24, 2016 at St Peter's basilica in the Vatican. / AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty

ROME — The celebration of Christmas is not a cause for division but for unity, Pope Francis told organizers of Italy’s annual “Christmas Contest” for young songwriters.

The Christmas Contest, which encourages young people to create original tunes to be added to classic Christmas songs, “gives voice to the young, inviting them to create new songs inspired by Christmas and its values,” the pope said Monday.

“The beauty of Christmas shines through in the sharing of small gestures of genuine love,” Francis said. “It is not alienating, it is not superficial, it is not evasive; on the contrary, it expands the heart, opening it up to gratuitousness.”

The pontiff also praised the Global Compact on Education, which promotes the Christmas Contest, underscoring its mission “to form mature individuals capable of overcoming division and antagonism, and to restore the fabric of relationships for the same of a more fraternal humanity.”

Achieving unity “takes courage,” Francis said, “and also creativity.”

“For example, you have composed new Christmas songs and you have shared them for a greater project, a project that believes in beauty as a way of human growth, to dream together of a better world,” he said.

“This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair,” Francis said, citing his predecessor, Saint Paul VI.

“I thank you, dear young people, artists and sportspeople, for not forgetting to be custodians of this beauty, that the Nativity of the Lord makes shine in every daily gesture of love, sharing and service,” he said.

The Adoration of the Christ Child par Stomer (Stom), Matthias (ca.1600-after 1650). Oil on canvas, size : 127x163, ca 1640-1645, Palazzo Madama Torino ©FineArtImages/Leemage

FineArtImages/Leemage

In his address, the pope also recalled the special circumstances of this Christmas, as the world has not yet come out from under the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences.

Maurizio Di Giacobbe, left, and Glenda Grossi, right, place decorations on a Christmas tree, with their children from left, Tiziano, 4, Arianna, 9, and Flavio 10, in their house in the outskirts of Rome, Saturday Dec. 12, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for families around the world managing work and home life with children kept home from school and after-school activities. For the Di Giacobbe family, the juggling is even more complicated since mom and dad are intensive care nurses in the same COVID-19 ward and spend their days tag-teaming shifts, trying to give their patients the level of personal care and attention they would give their own children. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

“I am happy to meet you, now at the threshold of Advent, the period that every year introduces us to Christmas and its Mystery,” he said, in reference to the four-week preparatory period before Christmas.

“This year too, its lights will be dimmed by the consequences of the pandemic, which still weighs heavily on our time,” he said. “All the more reason why we are called to question ourselves and not to lose hope.”

“The feast of the Birth of Christ is not out of tune with the trial we are going through, because it is the quintessential feast of compassion, the feast of tenderness,” he said. “Its beauty is humble and full of human warmth.”

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