Pope Francis said in his Christmas message Friday that fraternity is a watchword for these unusually troubled times exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
"At this moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and grave economic and social imbalances only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, it is all the more important for us to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters," he said in his "Urbi et Orbi" ("to the city and the world") message.
This year, due to COVID safety restrictions, the the pontiff delivered his remarks from a lectern inside the Vatican instead of from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica for a crowd of thousands who traditionally fill the square. It was livestreamed for viewing around the world.
Pope Francis said this call for solidarity was especially aimed at "people who are the most fragile, the sick and all who at this period find themselves without work or in grave difficulty due to the economic consequences of the pandemic and to women who have been subjected to domestic violence during these months of confinement."
The pontiff also touched on the plight of children caught up by war, singling out victims in Syria, Yemen and Iraq in his Christmas message.
"On this day, when the word of God became a child, let us turn our gaze to the many, all too many, children worldwide, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, who still pay the high price of war," he said.
"May their faces touch the consciences of all men and women of good will, so that the causes of conflicts can be addressed and courageous efforts can be made to build a future of peace," he said.
Pope Francis will make a historic visit to Iraq in March, the Vatican said Monday, the first ever by a pontiff and which will include a trip to the city of Mosul, a former jihadist stronghold.
The pope has long spoken of his desire to visit the Middle Eastern country, where two decades of conflict has taken a heavy toll on Christian communities.
The Argentinian-born pope called for peace and reconciliation in Libya and Iraq, "particularly to the Yazidis, sorely tried by these last years of war."
The pope'salso had to adapt due to the pandemic this year. The "midnight" mass was held several hours early to comply with Italy's curfew rules, and the congregation was limited to a much smaller number of people than usual.
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