VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has wished Christmas peace for people scarred by wars and those who lost loved ones to terrorism that he says is sowing “fear and death” in many cities and countries.
Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica Sunday, Pope Francis cited those suffering through the Syrian war, especially during the “most awful battles” in Aleppo. He pressed the international community for a negotiated solution.
“Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace,” he said, speaking in Italian, Reuters reported.
In his annual Christmas Day address, known as “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world” in Latin), the pope touched on troubled places around the globe and the especially tragic impact these conflict have on innocent children.
He urged Israelis and Palestinians to set aside hate and revenge and “write a new page of history.”
He also lamented that in Nigeria “fundamentalist terrorism exploits even children,” a reference to child suicide-bombers, and he decried conflicts and tensions in Africa, eastern Ukraine, Myanmar, the Korean peninsula, Colombia and Venezuela.
Tens of thousands of faithful entering St. Peter’s Square endured long lines for security checks. Security was heightened in the wake of last week’s Berlin Christmas market attack and the shooting death of the suspect by police in Milan, Italy, on Friday.
On Saturday night, Pope Francis celebrated a somber Christmas Eve Mass in a packed St. Peter’s Basilica. He urged Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus by thinking about the plight of today’s children, expressing dismay at the fate of those living in war zones, “hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants.”
“Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons,” he added.