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Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 05, 2024
Pope Francis greets visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square for the recitation of the Angelus prayer at the Vatican, Feb. 4, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis sent his greetings to all who will celebrate the Lunar New Year on Feb. 10 and invited everyone to pray for peace. 

As he greeted thousands of pilgrims from around the world gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Feb. 4, the pope said: 

On next Feb. 10, millions of families in East Asia and in different parts of the world will celebrate the Lunar New Year. I send them my cordial greetings, with the hope that this feast may be an occasion to experience relationships of affection and gestures of care, which contribute to creating a society of solidarity and fraternity, where each person is recognized and welcomed in his or her inalienable dignity.

As in past years, the pope did not mention any country or people by name, but his greeting is intended for all those in China, including those living in Hong Kong and Macau, as well as the populations of Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines and countries across the world with large immigrant communities from these countries, including the United States and Italy. Many of them celebrate the Lunar New Year (some refer to it as the Chinese New Year) in a colorful public way with parades, but it is above all a celebration for the family. In accordance with their tradition, those celebrating travel great distances and make great efforts to be with their families for this spring festival.

Pope Francis: “[Peace] is not the responsibility of a few, but of the entire human family. Let us all cooperate to build it with gestures of compassion and courage!”

This New Year, the Chinese will celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Dragon, an animal that symbolizes strength, energy and vitality. But the pope made no reference to that. Instead, Pope Francis concluded his greeting saying, “While I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon all, I invite [everyone] to pray for peace, for which the world yearns so much and which, today more than ever, is endangered in many places.”

“[Peace] is not the responsibility of a few, but of the entire human family,” he said. “Let us all cooperate to build it with gestures of compassion and courage!”

“Let us continue to pray for the people suffering from war, especially in Ukraine, Palestine and Israel,” Francis pleaded, referring to the two major wars that are causing such anxiety and polarization in the world, with the war in the Middle East risking further expansion if a cease-fire is not achieved soon.

In his midday message on Feb. 4, Pope Francis also drew attention to human trafficking, an issue about which he is deeply concerned. Francis was involved in efforts to combat trafficking when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires, and he has continued that work as pope. He drew attention to this plague when he greeted young people from many countries who came to Rome for the World Day for Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, which will be celebrated on Feb. 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese religious sister who was enslaved as a child. 

“Today, too, many brothers and sisters are deceived with false promises and are then subjected to exploitation and abuse,” the pope told them. “Let us all join to counter the dramatic global phenomenon of human trafficking.”

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