Pope wishes Christ­mas peace for suf­fer­ing

Presses in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity for so­lu­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY FRANCES D’EMILIO

VATICAN CITY | De­cry­ing the suf­fer­ing in Syria, Pope Fran­cis on Sun­day wished Christ­mas peace and hope for all those scarred by war and ter­ror­ism, which he said is sow­ing “fear and death in the heart of many coun­tries and cities.”

Some 40,000 tourists and Ro­mans calmly en­dured long se­cu­rity lines to en­ter St. Peter’s Square to see the pope on the cen­tral bal­cony of St. Peter’s Basil­ica, where he de­liv­ered the tra­di­tional “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and to the world”) Christ­mas mes­sage and bless­ing.

Fran­cis spoke sor­row­fully of the suf­fer­ing caused by the Syr­ian war, es­pe­cially in Aleppo, press­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to help ne­go­ti­ate a so­lu­tion. He urged Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans to “write a new page of his­tory, where hate and re­venge give way” to­ward build­ing a fu­ture of un­der­stand­ing and har­mony.

He also cited the “bru­tal­ity of ter­ror­ism” in Iraq, Libya and Ye­men.

In Nige­ria, the pope lamented, “fun­da­men­tal­ist ter­ror­ism ex­ploits even chil­dren,” a ref­er­ence to child sui­cide bombers. He ex­pressed hope that di­a­logue would pre­vail over ‘’the mind­set of con­flict” in both South Su­dan and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo.

The heavy se­cu­rity at the Vatican re­flected ap­pre­hen­sion in much of Europe, which is reel­ing from ex­trem­ist at­tacks. Last week, 12 peo­ple died in Ber­lin when a Tu­nisian man who had pledged al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State plowed a truck through a crowd at a Christ­mas mar­ket. He was killed a few days later in a shootout near Mi­lan.

“Peace to all those who have been in­jured or have suf­fered the loss of a loved one due to the bru­tal acts of ter­ror­ism that have sown fear and death in the heart of many coun­tries and cities,” the pope said.

Re­fer­ring to the mean­ing of Je­sus’ birth, Fran­cis said: “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.”

His Christ­mas mes­sage also re­called Colom­bia, which has seen his per­sonal in­ter­ven­tion try to end Latin Amer­ica’s long­est run­ning con­flict, and Venezuela, where a pa­pal en­voy has tried to fa­cil­i­tate talks between the government and the op­po­si­tion as Venezue­lans en­dure wide­spread food and medicine short­ages.

Fran­cis ex­pressed con­cern over ten­sions on the Korean penin­sula, and over Myan­mar, which he said should “con­sol­i­date ef­forts to pro­mote peace­ful co­ex­is­tence.”

Dur­ing Christ­mas Eve Mass in the basil­ica, Fran­cis said Je­sus’ birth, in a hum­ble sta­ble, calls to mind how some chil­dren to­day must hide in un­der­ground bomb shel­ters, live on the street, lie on the bot­tom of over­crowded smug­glers’ boats, are given weapons in­stead of toys or aren’t al­lowed to be born at all.

Through­out his pa­pacy, Fran­cis has de­nounced the Is­lamic ex­trem­ist vi­o­lence that has driven Chris­tians from Mideast com­mu­ni­ties that date to Chris­tian­ity’s foun­da­tions. He has also de­manded that Europe in par­tic­u­lar do more to wel­come refugees.

Re­flect­ing the pope’s con­cern for mi­grants, refugees and oth­ers on so­ci­ety’s mar­gins, Bologna’s arch­bishop cel­e­brated a Christ­mas Eve Mass for the home­less in a wait­ing room of that Ital­ian city’s main train sta­tion.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pope Fran­cis de­liv­ers the tra­di­tional Urbi et Orbi (Latin for ‘ to the city and to the world’ ) Christ­mas day mes­sage and bless­ing from the main bal­cony of St. Peter’s Basil­ica at the Vatican on Sun­day.

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