Pope Francis has ushered in Christmas by saying God loves everyone – “even the worst of us”.
He was speaking to thousands of people during Christmas Eve Mass in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
“You may have mistaken ideas, you may have made a complete mess of things… but the Lord continues to love you,” the Argentine pontiff said.
This will be interpreted by some as a reference to Church scandals, including sex abuse, our correspondent says.
Pope Francis will return to St Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Day to deliver the traditional papal message to the world.
Last week, the Pope introduced sweeping changes to remove the rule of “pontifical secrecy” that has pervaded the issue of clerical child abuse.
The Church previously shrouded sexual abuse cases in secrecy, in what it said was an effort to protect the privacy of victims and reputations of the accused.
But new papal documents lifted restrictions on those who report abuse or say they have been victims.
The Pope also changed the Vatican’s definition of child pornography, increasing the age of the subject from 14 or under to 18 or under.
The Church has been rocked by thousands of reports of sexual abuse by priests and accusations of cover-ups by senior clergy around the world. Pope Francis has faced serious pressure to provide leadership and generate workable solutions to the crisis, which has engulfed the Church in recent years.
Among those taking part in the Mass were children chosen from countries including Venezuela, Iraq and Uganda.
The BBC’s Rome correspondent Mark Lowen says this is a clear gesture from the leader of 1.3 billion Catholics who often focuses on the plight of migrants and victims of war, as well as on extending the reach of the Church to its periphery.
Pope Francis: God still loves us all, even the worst of us
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