ROME - Pope Francis, in the heart of Rome's fanciest shopping district, prayed Sunday that the poor are never forgotten.

His appearance at the foot of the Spanish Steps follows a papal tradition of public prayer before a statue representing Mary on Dec. 8, a church holiday honoring the mother of Jesus.

The day also marks the start of Rome's Christmas shopping season. His route took him down Via Condotti, lined with swank stores. He prayed aloud that people "never be left indifferent to the cries of the poor."

Then, in a departure from past popes, who would sit in the backseat of a chauffeured car, he sat up front, next to the driver, whom he chatted with as he was driven back to the Vatican.