VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis says the Christmas season provides reason for hope amid the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic.

During his Sunday blessing, Francis noted that the Vatican’s Christmas tree had gone up last week in St. Peter’s Square, and that work is underway to build the life-size Nativity scene next to it.

Pointing to the tree from his studio window over the square, Francis said such symbols of Christmas “are signs of hope, especially in this difficult period.”

He urged the faithful to recall the true meaning of Christmas — the birth of Jesus — and lend a hand to the neediest. He said: “There’s no pandemic, there’s no crisis that can extinguish this light.”

The Vatican hasn’t released the pope’s Christmas schedule, but he usually celebrates a Christmas Eve Mass and then offers a blessing on Christmas Day. The Vatican’s liturgical services are being held without the general public present because of COVID-19.