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Pope Francis has used his first Christmas message to urge believers and non-believers to join together in the common quest for world peace, saying “by either prayer or desire” they can be united in vanquishing war and conflict.
“Wars shatter and hurt so many lives!” the Pope said with emotion today at noon as he delivered his Urbi et Orbi message and blessing to the city of Rome and the entire world.
“Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue,” he prayed, standing on the central of the façade of St Peter’s Basilica before more than 100,000 people gathering in the square and area below. The 77-year-old Francis appeared only in his white cassock, shunning the ornate mitre and cope used by his predecessor. After expressing his hope that all people might “come to know the true face of God, the Father that has given us Jesus”, he prayed for peace in warring regions around the world and for their victims.
“Looking at the Child in the manger, our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, to battered women, to the sick,” the Jesuit Pope said.
“Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid,” he said.
“Grant peace to the Central African Republic, often forgotten and overlooked,” he continued. He then prayed for “social harmony” in South Sudan and for the safety of “the innocent and defenceless” who are subject to “constant attacks” in Nigeria.
Turning his thoughts to the Holy Land, where he is scheduled to visit in May, Pope Francis prayed for a “favourable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians”.
He remembered “the beloved country of Iraq”, as well.
“Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted for your name,” the Pope prayed. He invoked “hope and consolation” for refugees displaced by fighting in the Horn of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Grant that migrants in search of a dignified life may find acceptance and assistance,” he said.
“Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realize the gravity of this crime against humanity,” Francis said forcefully.
“Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become soldiers,” he cried.
He also prayed for the planet, “frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity”, and for “victims of natural disasters”, especially those affected by the recent typhoon in the Philippines.
“On this day enlightened by the Gospel hope which springs from the humble stable of Bethlehem, I invoke the Christmas gift of joy and peace upon all,” the Pope said in Italian. In a break with a long-standing custom, he did not give greetings in Latin, Greek or any other language.
Read the full text of the Pope's homily here
Watch the Pope deliver his Christmas message (with English translation) here