In his Christmas Message to the world, Pope Francis issued a heartfelt appeal for peace in many of the world’s conflict areas. He called in particular for an end to the violence and hatred that is spreading in the Holy Land and elsewhere in the Middle East, as well as in several African countries. He appealed to states to provide assistance and welcome to those who are fleeing war and violence, poverty and hunger.
Francis looked very well as he spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, and addressed his message not only to some 100,000 pilgrims from all continents gathered in St. Peter’s Square under a clear blue sky, but also to a global audience estimated at around 2 billion people, which he was reaching by radio, television and the social media.
He emphasized that the birth of Jesus is a cause for peace and hope in a troubled world and appealed to people everywhere “to open our hearts” to Jesus on this Christmas day because “he is the radiant ‘day’ which has dawned on the horizon of humanity.”
Pope Francis told his global audience: “where God is born, hope is born. He brings peace. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war.”
He reminded everyone that “only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst” and told them, “the grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations.”
In a 15-minute message delivered in Italian, Pope Francis referred specifically to many of those seemingly “insoluble” conflict situations in the world today, beginning with the almost 70-year-old one in the land where Jesus was born. Precisely where “the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built.”
He formulated his call for peace as a wish and prayer that “Israelis and Palestinians may resume direct dialogue and reach an agreement which will enable the two peoples to live together in harmony, ending a conflict which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire region.”
He gave public backing to the various peace efforts or agreements underway to end the conflicts in Syria, Libya, Colombia and the Ukraine. In particular, he prayed that “the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people.”
He urged all sides to support the recent agreement reached in Libya “so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country.”
He called on the international community to direct its efforts “to ending the atrocities which in those countries, as well as in Iraq, Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, even now reap numerous victims, cause immense suffering and do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples.” This appeared to be a reference to the barbarity and destruction being done especially by ISIS--the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Turning to terrorism which is an ever present threat in the world today, Francis remembered all those in different countries who have suffered from “brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis.”
As on countless previous occasions, the Argentine pope also remembered the Christians “who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith” and prayed that the Child Jesus may grant them “consolation and strength.” He hailed them as “our martyrs of today.”
Fresh from his first visit to Africa, Pope Francis called for an end to violence and for peace and reconciliation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and South Sudan.
He prayed for respect of the agreements that can bring peace to "all of the Ukraine." and he renewed his prayer for the success of the peace efforts in Colombia, which should bear fruit in the New Year.
On this his third Christmas as pope, Francis again spoke of situations that have always been close to his heart, and expressed his concern for and closeness to "those who are most vulnerable” and especially “to child soldiers, women who suffer violence and the victims of human trafficking.”
Pope Francis has often reminded people that 2m000 years ago Jesus and his family were refugees, and so it came as no surprise that in this Christmas message too he would draw the world’s attention to the current migration crisis – the worst since the Second World War. He sought to encourage these suffering people and appealed to the states and people to open their hearts to the countless number of refugees and migrants “that are fleeing extreme poverty or war, travelling all too often in inhumane conditions and not infrequently at the risk of their lives.”
He prayed that “God may repay with abundant blessings all those, both individuals and states, who generously work to provide assistance and welcome to the numerous migrants and refugees, helping them to build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them.”
He spoke too about “the many people” who are unemployed in today’s world and appealed to all those in positions of responsibility in the political and economic field to work for the common good and the dignity of every human being.
Francis never forgets prisoners and to day was no exception: he prayed that they would experience “the merciful love of God which heals wounds and triumphs over evil.”
After delivering his message and before leaving the balcony, Pope Francis again wished happy Christmas to everyone and said: “It’s the Christmas of the Holy Year of Mercy and I pray that we all may receive this mercy in our hearts so that we can show mercy to others and in that way make peace grow.