Pope delights in circus performance during audience

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

A pair of acrobats dressed as lumbering polar bears announced the performance during the weekly audience Wednesday at the Pope 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.

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.”

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.