VATICAN CITY — On Christmas, Pope Francis prayed for peace and renewed brotherhood in Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, Nicaragua and other parts of the world experiencing conflict.
“May all of us receive peace and consolation from the birth of the Savior and, in the knowledge that we are loved by the one heavenly Father, realize anew that we are brothers and sisters and come to live as such,” Pope Francis said from the center loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica.
In his urbi et orbi blessing, Pope Francis said his Christmas wish is for brotherhood among people with different ideas, that they might have the capability of listening to one another.
“By his incarnation, the Son of God tells us that salvation comes through love, acceptance, respect for this poor humanity of ours, which we all share in a great variety of races, languages and cultures,” he explained.
The Pope prayed in particular for Israelis and Palestinians to “resume dialogue and undertake a journey of peace.” He expressed hope that the truce brokered by the international community in Yemen may bring relief to “people exhausted by war and famine.”
“Without the fraternity that Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, our efforts for a more just world fall short, and even our best plans and projects risk being soulless and empty,” he said.
Francis called upon the international community to “work decisively for a political solution” in Syria without “partisan interests” so that Syrian refugees can “return to live in peace in their own country.”
“May the Child Jesus allow the beloved and beleaguered country of Syria once again to find fraternity after these long years of war,” Pope Francis prayed.
Pointing to the recent rapprochement between North and South Korea, Pope Francis prayed that Christmas may “consolidate the bonds of fraternity uniting the Korean Peninsula,” enabling leaders to reach solutions “capable of ensuring the development and well-being of all.”
Francis also called for reconciliation and fraternity in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ukraine and countries in Africa where refugees are in need of humanitarian assistance.
The Pope asked that God grant religious minorities around the world recognition of their rights, particularly the right to religious freedom.
“A particular thought goes to our brothers and sisters who celebrate the Birth of the Lord in difficult, if not hostile, situations, especially where the Christian community is a minority, often vulnerable or not taken into account,” he said.
After the Christmas blessing, the great bell of St. Peter’s Basilica rang out in celebration of Christ’s birth. The campanone bell is only rung on the solemnities of Christmas, Easter and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Pope Francis called on the 50,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to silently contemplate Christ’s nativity.
He said, “Like the shepherds who first went with haste to the stable, let us halt in wonder before the sign that God has given us: ‘A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ In silence, let us fall to our knees and worship.”