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ROME – In his traditional Angelus address on New Year’s Day, Pope Francis said the infant Jesus is a much-needed sign of encouragement as the world continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic and urged believers to show greater solidarity with one another.

Speaking to pilgrims and faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Jan. 1 address, the pope said that by laying Jesus in the manger after his birth, Mary “does not keep her Son to herself, but presents him to us.”

“She not only holds him in her arms, but puts him down to invite us to look at him, welcome him, adore him. Behold Mary’s maternity: she offers the Son who is born to all of us,” he said.

By contemplating Mary as she laid Jesus in the manger, “making him available to everyone,” the pope urged faithful to remember “that the world can change and everyone’s life can improve only if we make ourselves available to others, without expecting them to [reciprocate].”

“If we become craftsmen of fraternity, we will be able to mend the threads of a world torn apart by war and violence,” he said.

Pope Francis, who spoke after celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, said the message that Mary sends in laying Jesus down is that “God is near, within our reach. He does not come with the power of someone who wants to be feared, but with the frailness of someone who asks to be loved.”

“He does not judge us from his throne on high, but looks at us from below, like a brother, rather, like a son. He is born little and in need so that no one would ever again be ashamed,” he said, insisting that it is precisely in weakness that God’s presence is felt, “because he appeared to us in this way – weak and frail.”

Jesus chose to be born this way “so as not to exclude anyone. He did this to make us all become brothers and sisters,” the pope said, saying this message of encouragement is needed desperately amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Many people “are still living in uncertain and difficult times due to the pandemic,” he said. “Many are frightened about the future and burdened by social problems, personal problems, dangers stemming from the ecological crisis, injustices and by global economic imbalances.”

Francis said the image of Mary holding Jesus reminds him of the young mothers and their children who are “fleeing wars and famine, or waiting in refugee camps,” noting that “there are many.”

These crises can only be overcome through a heightened sense of fraternity, he said, and noted that in addition to the new year, Jan. 1 also marks the observance of the World Day of Peace.

Peace is a gift that must be asked for because “we are not capable of preserving it,” he said, saying it is also a commitment and requires each person “to take the first step” and demands “concrete actions.”

“It is built by being attentive to the least, by promoting justice, with the courage to forgive thus extinguishing the fire of hatred. And it needs a positive outlook as well, one that always sees, in the Church as well as in society, not the evil that divides us, but the good that unites us!” he said.

“Getting depressed or complaining is useless. We need to roll up our sleeves to build peace,” Pope Francis said, asking that as the new year begins, the Virgin Mary would intercede in obtaining “harmony in our hearts and in the entire world.”

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen