Pope decries 'material slavery' as holidays start

Rome: Pope Francis has prayed that humanity be reed of "slavery" to material things as he visited Rome's swank shopping area near the Spanish Steps.

Shoppers crowded into the square today to see Francis keep an annual appointment that marks both the Dec. 8 Catholic feast day honoring the Virgin Mary and the traditional start of the city's holiday shopping season.

Wearing a long white coat in the chilly early evening, Francis prayed that "humanity be freed of all spiritual and material slavery.

" He stood before a flower-adorned statue of Mary atop a towering column and expressed hope that in the run-up to Christmas, people would "go countercurrent" by concentrating less on themselves.

Francis wants the church to pay more attention to the poor and others on the margins of society.

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