Later he departed from his text and spoke emotionally of "children displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence."
"I think also of those infants massacred in bomb attacks, also those where the Son of God was born," he said, without elaborating. Again without elaborating, he spoke of "contemporary Herods," with blood on their hands, referring to the Biblical king who ordered children to be killed because he saw Jesus as a threat to his power.
He also spoke of "infants killed in the womb," condemning abortion as a product of "a culture that does not love life."
Speaking of the plight of refugees he asked that "indifference be changed into closeness and rejection into hospitality, so that all who now are suffering may receive the necessary humanitarian help to overcome the rigors of winter, return to their countries and live with dignity."
He appealed for an end to conflicts in African countries, urged dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, condemned the attack by Taliban fighters that killed more than 130 students in Pakistan last week, and thanked those helping the victims of the Ebola epidemic.
On Christmas eve, Francis made a surprise telephone call to comfort Christians living at refugee camp in Ankawa, Iraq. "You are like Jesus on Christmas night. There was no room for him either ..." he told them.