Pope Benedict XVI ushered in Christmas at midnight Mass, saying this morning that the image of the baby Jesus born in a manger should remind everyone of the plight of poor, abused and neglected children.
Benedict celebrated the Mass for more than 10,000 people in St. Peter's Basilica.
Thousands of others watched on large screens outside, and millions tuned in via television or radio around the world.
"The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze toward all children, particularly those who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn," the pope said in his homily, making a reference to abortion.
"Toward children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world, toward children who have to beg, toward children who suffer deprivation and hunger, toward children who are unloved -- in all of these it is the child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us.
"It is the God who has become small who appeals to us."
The pope, wearing resplendent gold and white vestments, again spoke out against the materialism that he has said several times has been allowed to dominate Christmas.
The pontiff also said people should "give to those who receive from no one and who cannot give you anything back."
A member of the congregation read a prayer in Arabic asking God to encourage "a spirit of dialogue, mutual understanding and collaboration" among followers of the three major monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Also today, the pope was to deliver his traditional, twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message and give his blessing to crowds in St. Peter's Square.