Pope Francis urges peace in conflict zones in Christmas address

  • Published
Media caption,

The Pope gave his fifth Christmas message from the Vatican's Saint Peter's Bascilica balcony

The Pope has used his annual Christmas message to appeal for peace in conflict zones including Yemen and Syria.

The two countries have both been ravaged by civil war for years, pushing their people into humanitarian crises.

"My wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity. Fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture," Pope Francis said on Tuesday.

The Pontiff was giving his yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (To the City and to the World) address in the Vatican.

"My thoughts turn to Yemen, in the hope that the truce brokered by the international community may finally bring relief to all those children and people exhausted by war and famine," he said from the balcony of St Peter's Basilica, addressing the square below.

He also said he hoped the international community would "work decisively for a political solution" in Syria - a country that is approaching its eighth year of civil war.

"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," he added.

The United Nations says more than 6 million civilians have been displaced there since the war there began.

His address also alluded to worldwide tensions over migration, saying that God wanted "love, acceptance, respect" throughout all humanity.

"Our differences, then, are not a detriment or a danger - they are a source of richness," he said.

Pope Francis revealed his hope for renewed talks between the Israelis and Palestinians to "undertake a journey of peace that can put an end to a conflict that for over 70 years has lacerated the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love".

'A call for resolution'

James Reynolds, BBC News in Rome

On Christmas Day, a Pope can enjoy the luxury of the world's stage largely to himself.

At mid-day, Vatican bands heralded Francis' entrance onto the balcony of St Peter's Basilica. The Pope addressed the pilgrims and tourists in the square below, turning the pages of his speech carefully as he called for the resolution of many of the world's conflicts.

He also sent a message to minority Christian communities who are living in what he called hostile situations. In order to reinforce this thought, Francis has sent his Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Iraq to hold festive services with that country's small Christian population.

The traditional Christmas address is a short breather from some of the problems facing the Pope. This year, he has been criticised for his failure to understand the scope of the clerical sexual abuse crisis. Francis has called bishops from around the world to Rome in February 2019 to discuss how the church might respond.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Christians gathered in Damascus on 23 December to watch a Christmas tree lighting

The 82-year-old is the first Pope from Latin America - a region he also referenced in his annual address, calling for political reconciliation in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The Pontiff also referenced Ukraine, as well as the millions of people displaced in Africa.

The address comes one day after Pope Francis' traditional Christmas Eve message, in which he condemned the huge divide between the world's rich and poor.

In his homily, Pope Francis said the birth of Christ pointed to a new way to live "not by devouring and hoarding, but by sharing and giving".

He continued: "Let us ask ourselves: Do I really need all these material objects and complicated recipes for living? Can I manage without all these unnecessary extras and live a life of greater simplicity?

The Pope has made highlighting the plight of the poor a key theme of his papacy.