On Christmas day, Pope Francis delivered his blessing “urbi et orbi” (“to the city and the world”) and made a heartfelt appeal for “fraternity” among peoples and nations, as he addressed a world where polarization is being stoked by political forces that exploit people’s fears, and where conflicts are being fought in places like Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ukraine, and between Israelis and Palestinians.
He reminded people everywhere that “the universal message of Christmas is that God is a good Father and we are all brothers and sisters.” He said “this truth is the basis of the Christian vision of humanity.”
He called for “fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture,” and “fraternity among people with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another,” as well as “fraternity among persons of different religions.”
He emphasized that “without the fraternity that Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, our efforts for a more just world fall short, and even our best plans and projects risk being soulless and empty.”
Without the fraternity that Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, our efforts for a more just world fall short.
For his sixth year as pope, Francis delivered his Christmas message commemorating the birth of Jesus, from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on a sunny Christmas day. In an internationally televised address, he told the 50,000 pilgrims from all continents gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and a global audience estimated at more than one billion people, that “my wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity.”
He reminded everyone that “Jesus came to reveal the face of God to all those who seek him” and that by his birth in Bethlehem “the face of God has been revealed in a human face.”
By becoming man, he said, “the Son of God tells us that salvation comes through love, acceptance, respect for this poor humanity of ours, which we all share in a great variety of races, languages, and cultures. Yet, all of us are brothers and sisters in humanity!”
Consequently, he said, “our differences, then, are not a detriment or a danger; they are a source of richness.” He said “the experience of families teaches us this: as brothers and sisters, we are all different from each other. We do not always agree, but there is an unbreakable bond uniting us, and the love of our parents helps us to love one another.” He explained that “the same is true for the larger human family, but here, God is our ‘parent,’ the foundation and strength of our fraternity.”
Then in looking to specific areas of conflict across the globe, Francis began with the land where Jesus was born, and prayed that that the Christmas message of fraternity “may enable Israelis and Palestinians to resume dialogue and undertake a journey of peace that can put an end to a conflict that for over seventy years has rent the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love.”
He next prayed for an end to the eight-year war in Syria that has caused the deaths of an estimated half a million people and driven millions into exile. He prayed that Syrians may rediscover fraternity after these long years of war, and he appealed yet again to the international community “to work decisively for a political solution that can put aside divisions and partisan interests, so that the Syrian people, especially all those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere, can return to live in peace in their own country.”
Turning his gaze to war-torn Yemen, he prayed that “the truce brokered by the international community” in recent times “may finally bring relief to all those children and people exhausted by war and famine.”
He prayed that Jesus may bless “the efforts of all those who work to promote paths of reconciliation in political and social life.”
He prayed too for an end to conflicts and “a new dawn of fraternity” in Africa, “where millions of persons are refugees or displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance and food security.” He prayed that Jesus may bless “the efforts of all those who work to promote paths of reconciliation in political and social life.” Francis will visit this continent for the second time in the summer, and is expected to reinforce that message
Moving to Asia which he has already visited three times, Francis prayed that Jesus may “consolidate the bonds of fraternity uniting the Korean peninsula” and “help the path of rapprochement recently undertaken to continue and to reach agreed solutions capable of ensuring the development and well-being of all.” He is due to visit Japan later this year and might also visit North Korea if he receives an official invitation.
Returning to Europe, he prayed that the Child Jesus “may bring relief to the beloved land of Ukraine, yearning to regain a lasting peace that is slow to come”, a reference to the conflict with Russia that has continued to simmer following the annexation of Crimea by Russia. He emphasized that it is “only with a peace respectful of the rights of every nation can the country recover from the sufferings it has endured and restore dignified living conditions for its citizens.” He assured the Christian communities of the region of his closeness to them and prayed “that they may develop relationships of fraternity and friendship.”
Then turning to Latin America where he was born, Pope Francis prayed that Venezuela—a country that has been brought to its knees due to internal civil conflict—“may once more recover social harmony and enable all the members of society to work fraternally for the country’s development and to aid the most vulnerable sectors of the population.”
He next prayed to the Child Jesus for the inhabitants of beloved Nicaragua that “they may see themselves once more as brothers and sisters, so that divisions and discord will not prevail, but all may work to promote reconciliation and to build together the future of the country.”
He also expressed a word of concern for “all those peoples that experience ideological, cultural and economic forms of colonization and see their freedom and identity compromised” and for “those suffering from hunger and the lack of educational and health care services.”
Pope Francis prayed especially for “our brothers and sisters who celebrate the birth of the Lord in difficult, if not hostile situations, especially where the Christian community is a minority, often vulnerable or not taken into account.” He prayed that Jesus may enable them and “all minorities” to “live in peace and see their rights recognized, especially the right to religious freedom.”
He concluded by asking that the child Jesus “may watch over all the children of the world, and every frail, vulnerable and discarded person,” and help everyone in the world to realize that “we are brothers and sisters” and enable us “to live as such.”