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Pope stresses mortality in New Year message

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Pope Francis waves as he delivers a "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

Pope Francis waves as he delivers a "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

Pope Francis waves as he delivers a "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

Pope Francis has presided over a solemn prayer service in St Peter's Basilica on New Year's Eve, using his homily to stress life's fleetingness.

The spiritual leader said: "How we like to be surrounded by so many fireworks, seemingly beautiful, but which in reality last only a few minutes."

As humans, he said, there is a "time to be born and a time to die" and New Year's also is a time to reflect on our mortality, "the end of the path of life".

Afterward, the 78-year-old pontiff, wearing a long white coat, a scarf and a thin skull cap, braved frigid air to admire the life-size Nativity scene in St Peter's Square. For 20 minutes, he walked around shaking hands of people lined up behind barriers to greet him.

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