Francis appeals for support for all scarred by war and terrorism, as UK’s Christian leaders also address tumultuous events of 2016
The world must harness the power of love rather than might and wealth to bring peace to areas blighted by conflict, Pope Francis has said in his Christmas Day message. In the UK, Christian leaders focused on uncertainty, anxiety and fear at the end of a tumultuous year on the global stage.
In his Christmas Day homily delivered in front of thousands of people from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics appealed for the message of peace to go 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”.
At the close of a year that has seen repeated acts of terrorism – and amid tight security around the Vatican – Francis wished peace “to those who have lost a person dear to them as a result of brutal acts of terrorism, and to those who have sown fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities”.
Syria topped the pope’s long checklist of countries that have been plagued by war and suffering over the past year. “Far too much blood has been spilled,” he said.
The pontiff added: “Above all, in the city of Aleppo, site of the most awful battles in recent weeks, it is most urgent that assistance and support be guaranteed to the exhausted civil populace, with respect for humanitarian law. It is time for weapons to be stilled forever, and the international community to actively seek a negotiated solution so that civil coexistence can be restored in the country.”
He called on Israelis and Palestinians to “have the courage and the determination to write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way to the will to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony”.
The pope called for peace, unity and dialogue in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There was an “urgent need to put into practice commitments” made in eastern Ukraine, he added.
He urged harmony in Colombia, “which seeks to embark on a new and courageous path of dialogue and reconciliation”, and courage for Venezuela “to undertake the necessary steps to put an end to current tensions”.
Turning to Asia, he spoke of the need for protection and humanitarian assistance in Myanmar, and the need for “a renewed spirit of cooperation” to overcome tensions on the Korean peninsula.
The pope also sent a message of peace to “our abandoned and excluded brothers and sisters, to those that suffer hunger and to all the victims of violence. Peace to exiles, migrants and refugees, to all those who in our day are subject to human trafficking.
“Peace to the people who suffer because of the economic ambitions of the few, because of the sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery. Peace to those affected by social and economic unrest, and to those who endure the consequences of earthquakes or other natural catastrophes.”
Children got a special mention, “above all those deprived of the joys of childhood because of hunger, wars or the selfishness of adults”.
Earlier, in his Christmas Eve homily, Francis said that Christmas had been “taken hostage” by a dazzling materialism that blinded many to the needs of the hungry, the migrants and the war-weary.
A world often obsessed with gifts, feasting and self-centredness needed more humility. “If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the fragile simplicity of a small newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender affection of the swaddling clothes. God is there,” the pontiff said.
Many in the wealthy world had to be reminded that the message of Christmas was humility, simplicity and mystery.
“Jesus was born rejected by some and regarded by many others with indifference,” he said. “Today, also the same indifference can exist, when Christmas becomes a feast where the protagonists are ourselves, rather than Jesus; when the lights of commerce cast the light of God into the shadows; when we are concerned for gifts, but cold toward those who are marginalised.”
He then added in unscripted remarks: “This worldliness has taken Christmas hostage. It needs to be freed.”
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SOURCE: The Guardian