TODAY

TODAY   |  December 24, 2013

Large crowd expected for address from Pope

As preparations are made for the first Christmas address from Pope Francis, NBC’s Martin Fletcher provides a look back on the popular figure’s first nine months as a religious leader and the impact he’s already made.

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>>> pope francis is preparing to celebrate his first christmas as head of the catholic church . he took time-out from his busy schedule to visit with his predecessor. martin is at the vatican with us. good morning to you and merry christmas eve.

>>> merry christmas to you, too. the two popes, pope francis and pope benedict prayed together and wished each other merry christmas and what a beautiful day it is here in st. peters square. they're expecting rain but instead record crowds are expected here from the first address from the man here known as the humble pope whose official title. he has already indeared himself to catholics and beyond. bringing the church to the people. especially the poor and the abandoned. he celebrated his birthday with four homeless people . he embraced the disfigured and washed the face of prisoners including two muslims and two women. his modesty and compassionate virtues won him a modern form of affection. 10 million followers on twitters. he's the most searched name on the internet. all popes choose their own names and pope francis broke with tradition. there have been 16 benedicts, 21 johns and only one pope francis . he is the first to choose the patron saint of the poor. born himself in modest circumstances, it's a long way to the vatican . he doesn't like everything he sees. especially the vast vatican bureaucracy and waste and corruption in the church. he suspended a german bishop that spent $40 million renovating this residence including a bathtub for $20,000. and he shocked traditionalists by bringing in outside analysts like young and mckenzie.

>> that's common sense. if you're going to teach as a church you want to be able to give an example of honesty.

>> reporter: he comes off like everyone's favorite grandad. some of his comment as pier ppear to challenge accepted faith. on gay priest he said who am i to judge. on women in the church he said, they are essential. do his comments signal a change in style?

>> there's a style change which is simplicity. but he's not somebody going to be throwing out core doctrine.

>> reporter: this christmas week pope francis is stressing his core message, hope the poor, help the homeless. but he ended his last public prayer before christmas with another seasonal message, have a good lunch and see you soon.

>> man of the people. martin fletcher , thank you so much. amazing to see the impact he had in a short nine months.

>> only march he became pope. incredible.