Pope Francis celebrated the fifth Christmas Midnight Mass of his pontificate where he highlighted the Biblical story of Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus Christ.
The pontiff on Sunday night said that Christ`s parents found no place to stay in Bethlehem except for a lowly manger and noted that Christian faith demands that foreigners be welcomed, reports Efe news.
Amid heavy security at the solemn Mass at which Catholics commemorate the birth of Jesus, which this year was not celebrated at midnight but it rather began at 9.30 p.m., Francis delivered his remarks to about 10,000 people inside the St. Peter`s Basilica here, while thousands of others followed the service outside.
The shepherds who first welcomed Baby Jesus were "forced to live on the edges of society" and were considered undesirable foreigners, Francis said, adding "Everything about them generated mistrust. They were men and women to be kept at a distance, to be feared."
"Many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away, but driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones," the pontiff said.
The 81-year-old Argentine pope - born Jorge Bergoglio - has consistently defended the situation of migrants, and in his homily at the Mass he called for a "new social imagination ... in which none have to feel that there is no room for them on this earth."
Francis told the assembled faithful that "Our document of citizenship" comes from God and thus respect for migrants is - and must be - an integral part of Christianity.
"This is the joy that we tonight are called to share, to celebrate and to proclaim. The joy with which God, in his infinite mercy, has embraced us pagans, sinners and foreigners, and demands that we do the same," the pontiff said, going on to call people traffickers the "Herods of today," and declaring that they have blood on their hands.
The 81-year-old pope, who was born of Italian immigrant stock in Argentina, has made defence of migrants a major plank of his papacy, often putting him at odds with politicians.
Austria's new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has aligned himself with central European neighbours like Hungary and the Czech Republic in opposing German-backed proposals to distribute asylum seekers around EU member states.
In elections in Germany in September, the far-right and anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party made significant gains, with electors punishing Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open-door policy and pushing migration policy to the top of the agenda in talks to form a coalition government.
Italy's anti-immigrant Northern League, whose leader Matteo Salvini often gives fiery speeches against migrants, is expected to make gains in national elections next year. A law that would give citizenship to children born in Italy to migrant parents is stalled in parliament.
Pope Francis also condemned human traffickers who make money off desperate migrants as the “Herods of today” with blood on their hands, a reference to the Biblical story of the king who ordered the killing of all newborn male children near Bethlehem because he feared Jesus would one day displace him.
More than 14,000 people have died trying to make the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean to Europe in the past four years.
On Christmas Day, Francis will deliver his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and to the World) blessing and message from the central balcony of St. Peters Basilica.