Pope Francis celebrates a New Year's Eve vespers service in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis used his year-end prayer service on Tuesday evening to urge people to ask themselves a tough question: Did they mainly spend 2013 promoting self-interests or helping others?
That's what we all should consider as New Year's celebrations get under way, the pontiff said as he led the service in St. Peter's Basilica to give thanks, a Vatican year-end tradition.
"Let us courageously ask ourselves: How did we live the time (God) gave us?" Francis asked in his homily. "Did we use it above all for ourselves, for our interests, or did we know how to spend it for others as well?"
He also encouraged people to reflect on whether they used 2013 to improve the place where they live. "This year did we contribute, in our own small ways, to make it more livable, orderly, welcoming?"
There are "so many people marked by material and moral poverty, poor people, unhappy, suffering, who appeal to the conscience not only of public authorities but of every citizen," Francis said.
During his first year as pope, Francis has stressed that he wants the Catholic church to be a "poor" church, focused on reaching out to those who live on the margins of society and others in need.
Citing Rome as an example, the pope noted that the city is "full of tourists, but also full of refugees. Rome is full of people who work, but also of people who don't find work, or who do jobs that are underpaid or without dignity."
"All have the right to be treated with the same attitude of welcoming and fairness because everyone carries human dignity," Francis said.
After the solemn service in the basilica, Francis put on a long white coat and went out into St. Peter's Square to admire a life-sized Nativity scene and greet well-wishers.
Right after his election as pope in March, the Argentine-born Francis established his style as a down-to-earth pastor who likes to chat, shake hands and hug his flock when in public.