ROME — Circus acrobats performed for Pope Francis during his weekly audience, in what has become a regular feature of the Vatican holiday season.

(Credit: Andrew Medichini/AP.)

A pair of acrobats dressed as lumbering polar bears announced the performance during the weekly audience Wednesday at the Paul VI hall. The pope appeared to delight as the jugglers, acrobats and a strongman from the Golden Circus took turns showing off their tricks.

(Credit: L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP.)

During his remarks, Francis said that the tradition of gift-giving over Christmas was “a sign of our gratitude for the gift of Jesus and our desire to share him with others.”

(Credit: Andrew Medichini/AP.)

But he also noted that “in our times, we are witnessing a sort of distortion of Christmas,” and said that often “any reference to the birth of Jesus” is eliminated from festivities.