Pope Francis incenses the altar as he celebrates an Epiphany Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

The Latest: Pope urges aid to poor, homeless on Epiphany

January 06, 2019 - 6:14 am

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — The Latest on celebrations of Epiphany (all times local):

12:10 p.m.

Pope Francis has marked the Epiphany feast day by urging people to follow the path of "humble love" and care for those who can give nothing back.

For the Catholic Church, Jan. 6 recalls the journey of the three Magi, also known as kings or wise men, to find Jesus in a humble abode in Bethlehem.

In his homily in St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday, Francis encouraged getting up "from our sedentary lives" to care for those who are suffering or vulnerable and "those left behind."

Since becoming pontiff in 2013, Francis has stressed helping those on the margins of society, including the homeless, migrants and the poor.

Francis described as "precious in the eyes of God" mercy shown to those "who have nothing to give back."

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10 a.m.

Thousands of Orthodox Christian worshippers have plunged into icy rivers and lakes across Bulgaria to recover crucifixes cast by priests in ceremonies commemorating the baptism of Jesus Christ.

Tradition holds that the person who retrieves the wooden cross will be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy throughout the year. After the cross is fished out, the priest sprinkles believers with water using a bunch of basil.

Epiphany is held every year on Jan. 6 and marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas.

In the central mountain city of Kalofer, dozens of men dressed in white embroidered shirts waded into the Tundzha River waving national flags and singing folk songs Sunday. They danced for nearly half an hour, up to their waists in the freezing water, pushing away ice chunks.

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