Pope Benedict XVI appealed for the respect of the "dignity of children" during Midnight Mass attended by thousands at St Peter's Basilica and watched by millions more on television.
With the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem, God "teaches us respect for children," the pope said in his homily broadcast live on 73 television stations in 47 countries.
"The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn," said the spiritual leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.
Speaking in Italian, he pointed to "children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world ... children who have to beg ... children who suffer deprivation and hunger ... children who are unloved."
He said: "In all of these it is the child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us. ... Let us pray this night that the brightness of God's love may enfold all these children. Let us ask God to help us do our part so that the dignity of children may be respected."
The Pope is recentering Christmas on the Christ-Child, which is the correct thing to do. The silliness that we see around us is from the loss of focus on the Christ.Reuters had some accurate analysis as to what may be on Pope's mind:
The Catholic Church, particularly in the United States, is still reeling from a 2002 child sexual abuse scandal involving priests. This month a papal preacher suggested the Pope should call a day of penitence to seek forgiveness from God.
Merry Christmas and Peace to Men of Good Will