Pope Francis strolled through St. Peter’s Square Saturday evening during the last frigid hours of 2016, exchanging New Year’s Eve greetings with the faithful.
Francis made his way through the crowd to pray in front of the life-size Nativity scene following the traditional vespers, also called evening prayer, inside St. Peter’s Basilica. Along the way, he stopped to kiss children on the cheek and shake hands with well-wishers, occasionally accepting small gifts that he handed off to his body guards. People in the crowd held up their smart phones and tablets to snap pictures of the pontiff.
During the evening prayers, the pope called on the faithful to help young people find purpose in the world, noting the paradox of “a culture that idolizes youth” and yet has made no place for the young.
“We have condemned our young people to have no place in society, because we have slowly pushed them to the margins of public life, forcing them to migrate or to beg for jobs that no longer exist or fail to promise them a future,” Francis said.
More than responsibility, the pope said the world owed young people “a debt” because they have been deprived of “dignified and genuine work” that would allow them to take part in society, instead condemning them “to knock on doors that for the most part remain closed.”
A branch of the fast-food chain McDonald’s opened in Vatican City, the seat of the Catholic Church, on Saturday despite protests from residents and cardinals.
The branch opened in a building belonging to the Holy See that rented out some rooms to the US giant just metres from St Peter’s Square.
Cardinals also expressed their outrage in comments to Italian media.
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI lived just a stone’s throw from where the fast-food outlet is now situated before he was elevated to the papacy.
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Gerhard Ludwig Mueller now lives in the building in the Borgo Pio district of Rome.
Critics said the Catholic Church should have set up a social centre in the rooms rather than allowing burger flippers to operate there.
The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which oversees the assets of the Vatican, said it could not understand the commotion.
McDonald’s has not commented on the criticism.