Pope Francis
Pope Francis attends the Christmas Night Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican CityGetty Images

Pope Francis has urged people to lead a simple life and avoid materialism. The pontiff's Christmas message was delivered at his annual Christmas Eve Mass at Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

"In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child [Jesus] calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential," Pope Francis told Christians at midnight mass.

"In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God's will," the 79-year old pope said, pointing to several anti-Christmas protests in the world.

The pope called on Christians to lead a life that combines prayer and empathy. "Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should instead be devout, filled with empathy, compassion and mercy, drawn daily from the wellspring of prayer," the pontiff said.

Several countries, including Somalia and Tajikistan, have prohibited Christians from celebrating the holy day this year. Rejoicing in the birth of Jesus, which is marked by Christmas celebrations, the pope said such indifference should be left to sceptics only.

"There is no room for doubt; let us leave that to the sceptics who, by looking to reason alone, never find the truth. There is no room for the indifference which reigns in the hearts of those unable to love for fear of losing something."

"All sadness has been banished, for the Child Jesus brings true comfort to every heart," he added, urging Christians to "put away all fear and dread."