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VATICAN CITY (CBSNEWS/AP) – Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Eve Mass in a packed St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday, rounding out a year marked by his pleas for the world to better protect innocents caught up in wars, migrations and abject poverty.

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

The late night Mass was the first major event of the Christmas season, followed by Francis’ noon Urbi et Orbi (To the city and the world) blessing on Christmas Day.

* READ MORE AT CBSNEWS.COM *

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