Pope Benedict XVI ushered in Christmas as he led Midnight Mass early Tuesday amid thousands of the faithful who filled St. Peter's Basilica.
Dressed in white and gold-colored robes, Benedict blessed the crowd of pilgrims, Romans and tourists as he walked in a procession up the main aisle to the central altar, which was decorated with red poinsettia flowers.
As a choir sang, Benedict sprinkled incense on the altar under Bernini's massive bronze baldachin before opening the service with the traditional wish for peace in Latin: "Pax vobis" ("Peace be with you"). The faithful responded: "Et cum spiritu tuo." ("And also with you.")
For those unable to get into the midnight service there were giant screens set up in St. Peter's Square, which was made festive with a twinkling Christmas tree and the Vatican's Nativity scene.
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