Pope Francis has dedicated his Christmas Day blessing to a plea for global peace, emphasizing that the biblical narrative of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem conveys a message of harmony.
The town of Bethlehem in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank has cancelled most of its Christmas celebrations in solidarity with Gaza.
Francis traditionally uses his annual address to express concern for the various hardships confronting the world, and this year was no exception.
“Let us not forget the tensions and conflicts that trouble the region of the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and Sudan, as well as Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. May the day draw near when fraternal bonds will be consolidated on the Korean peninsula by undertaking processes of dialogue and reconciliation capable of creating the conditions for lasting peace,” said the Pope.
Addressing conflicts ranging from Armenia and Azerbaijan to Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, South Sudan, Congo, and the Korean peninsula, the Pope urged for humanitarian efforts, dialogue, and security to triumph over violence and death.
Francis also pleaded for peace in Palestine and Israel: “I embrace them all, particularly the Christian communities of Gaza, the parish of Gaza, and the entire Holy Land. My heart grieves for the victims of the abominable attack of 7 October last, and I reiterate my urgent appeal for the liberation of those still being held hostage. I plead for an end to the military operations with their appalling harvest of innocent civilian victims, and call for a solution to the desperate humanitarian situation by an opening to the provision of humanitarian aid. May there be an end to the fuelling of violence and hatred. And may the Palestinian question come to be resolved through sincere and persevering dialogue between the parties, sustained by strong political will and the support of the international community. Brothers and sisters, let us pray for peace in Palestine and in Israel,”
The pontiff delivered these remarks from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, with crowds of people gathered below.