Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI decried the
increasing commercialization of Christmas as he celebrated
Christmas Eve Mass, urging the faithful to look beyond the
holiday`s "superficial glitter" to discover its true meaning.
Benedict presided over the service in a packed St Peter`s
Basilica, kicking off an intense two-week of Christmas-related
public appearances that will test the 84-year-old pontiff`s
stamina amid signs that fatigue is starting to slow him down.
The Christmas Eve Mass was moved up to 10 pm from
midnight several years ago to spare the pope a late night that
is followed by an important Christmas Day speech.
In a new concession this year, Benedict processed down
the basilica`s central aisle on a moving platform to spare him
the long walk.
Benedict appeared to hold up well during the Mass despite
the late hour and a dry cough that interrupted his homily.
In his homily, Benedict lamented that Christmas has
become an increasingly commercial celebration that obscures
the simplicity of the message of Christ`s birth.
"Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the
superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it
the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy
and true light," he said.
It was the second time in as many days that Benedict has
pointed to the need to rediscover faith to confront the
problems facing the world today.
In his end-of-year meeting with Vatican officials on
Thursday, Benedict said Europe`s financial crisis was largely
"based on the ethical crisis looming over the Old Continent."
Benedict officially kicked off Christmas a few hours
before the evening Mass, lighting a candle in his studio
window overlooking St Peter`s Square in a sign of peace, as
crowds gathered to witness the unveiling of the Vatican`s
larger-than-life sized nativity scene.