ROME — Pope Francis led his final General Audience of 2015 on Wednesday, amid signs of his growing impact on the Church as well as reminders of just how high the expectations of change he’s created truly are.

Francis largely played the role of country pastor during the audience, doling some homespun Christmas advice to the crowd of roughly 10,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on a chilly Roman Wednesday.

“When you go home, stop in front of your Nativity set and give a kiss to the Christ child,” the pope said, in improvised remarks. “Say to him, ‘Jesus, I want to be humble like you, humble like God,’ and ask for this grace.”

As it so often is, humility was a key theme for the pope.

“Before Jesus, we’re called to abandon our pretense of autonomy,” he said, “in order to embrace the true form of liberty, which consists in knowing who’s before us and serving him.”

Toward the end of the audience, Francis also expressed concern for the victims of natural disasters in recent days, including massive flooding in the United States, Great Britain, and parts of Latin America, especially Paraguay.

“I invite prayers for the victims of these calamities … which have caused many people to be displaced and produced great damages,” he said. “May the Lord give comfort to these populations, and may fraternal solidarity help them with their needs.”

The pontiff seemed in high spirits, despite being forced to don a heavy white coat to ward off the cold — perhaps because of two new bits of evidence that his call to “fraternal solidarity” is finding an echo in the Church he leads.

The pontiff has called on Catholic institutions across Europe to open their doors to refugee families, as Europe struggles with its most significant refugee crisis since the end of World War II, and on Tuesday the archdiocese of Bologna announced that roughly 30 local parishes will do just that beginning in January.

The Bologna archdiocese is one of the largest in Italy, and has long been considered a pacesetter for the national Church.

An official of the archdiocese said plans call for families within each of the 30 parishes to take responsibility for at least one refugee, and perhaps an entire refugee family. The idea is to step in when people classified by the Italian government as refugees exhaust the period of time when they’re eligible for public support.

“That often happens after about a year of controls and exams,” said Monsignor Antonio Allori, head of the Bologna archdiocese’s charity office. “In that moment, people have to leave the [public] centers and often they find themselves alone.”

Allori said the aim of the initiative isn’t to provide refugees with simply housing, but also other forms of support in order to help them reach wherever it is they intend to settle.

It’s an undertaking, Allori said, designed to respond to Francis’ call, and probably not something the archdiocese would otherwise have considered.

At the same time, Italy’s civil service department, in cooperation with the local Catholic charities office in Rome, unveiled a new training program for young volunteers taking part in the special jubilee Holy Year of Mercy called by Francis.

The heart of the program will be composed of two activities very much in keeping with Francis’ vision: offering support to parish families in Rome currently hosting refugees in their homes, and spending time helping out in the “Don Luigi Di Liegro” hostel for migrants and refugees visited by Francis on Dec. 18 to open a symbolic “holy door of charity.”

The project for youth volunteers, aged between 18 and 28, is called “Moved by Mercy.”

For every indication that Francis is bringing the Church into alignment with his priorities, however, there are also reminders of how much people still want him to do.

Also on Tuesday, family members of a priest killed under mysterious circumstances 25 years ago in the Reggio Emilia region of Italy wrote to Francis, asking him to intervene to compel local Church officials to open a new investigation.

The priest, the Rev. Amos Barigazzi, served as the chaplain to a local psychiatric hospital and reportedly occasionally would take patients out on his own authority for brief periods, giving them what he called “a breath of freedom.” The habit apparently did not sit well with some members of the community, and his relatives believe that resentment may have had something to do with his death.

Family members say they’re convinced that Church officials are hiding something, or at least could find the truth if they wanted — and equally convinced that if Francis knew about it, he’d make it happen.

Ernesto D’Andrea, the family’s attorney, told reporters that they tried writing to the pope two years ago, but got back a two-line note from the then-secretary of state, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, saying tersely that such matters “are not in our competence.”

“That’s not Papa Bergoglio’s style,” said D’Andrea, using the given name of Pope Francis, insisting that if the pope were informed, things would begin moving.

Police and prosecutors in Reggio Emilia point out that there was a string of unsolved murders in the area a quarter-century ago, and insist that they’ve done everything possible to try to solve Barigazzi’s case.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, Francis can do for the family. But the plea for intervention nonetheless seems to offer a useful word to the wise for this activist pontiff as the New Year begins, one sure to be full of challenges, from a busy schedule related to the jubilee year to the ongoing work of Vatican reform — not to mention a keenly anticipated set of conclusions from the Synod of Bishops on the family and a still-unresolved Vatileaks trial.

The insight is this: Once you acquire a reputation as a game-changer, people will expect it all the time.