VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis publicized Christmas wishes here on Wednesday December 25 for a better world, praying for protection for Christians under attack, battered women and trafficked children, peace in the Middle East and Africa, and dignity for refugees fleeing misery and conflict around the globe.
At this occasion Pope Francis delivered the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (Latin for “to the city and to the world”) speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to more than 70,000 cheery tourists, pilgrims and Romans in the square below. In his first ever Christmas message ever since being elected pontiff in March earlier this year, he urged all to share in the song of Christmas angels: “for every man or woman .who hopes for a better world, who cares for others”. During his speech he singled out Syria, which saw its third Christmas during civil war; South Sudan; the Central African Republic; Nigeria; and Iraq the places which are being haunted by conflicts.
“Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted in your name,” Francis said. In his speech, Pope Francis also recalled the victims of natural disasters, especially Filipinos suffering from the recent typhoon in their homeland.
The pope also prayed that God “bless the land where you chose to come into the world and grant a favourable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.” “True peace is not a balancing of opposing forces. It’s not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment,” he said. He added that “our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think, too, of the elderly, of battered women” and others
In the Bethlehem, joyful pilgrims celebrated Christmas in the ancient Church where tradition holds Jesus was born, as candles enlightened the holy site while the festive sound of prayer filled its swarming halls. Astoundingly, this year’s attendance was the largest in years in Bethlehem, while the Christmas celebrations were marked by cautious hopefulness amid in progress Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Leaders spoke of hope, wishing the coming year would finally bring the Palestinians an independent state of their own. The Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land of Israel Fouad Twal, led a prayer for a congregation of some 1,000 worshippers. “The whole world now is looking at Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus,” Twal said in his annual address, adding that the message of Jesus was one of “love and reconciliation.”
An 18 -year-old Palestinian Iskandar Salameh, said:Tthe Christmas spirit was uniting those gathered on Wednesday. “We all feel that Jesus is with us today,” he added.
In Britain, the royal family turned out in heartiness for a ChristmasChurch service, however the newest family member of the royal family; Prince George, son of Prince William and Kate, was nowhere to be seen. Cicely Howard said that she asked about the baby when she greeted Kate outside the Church. Howard told that Kate described George as being “more interested in the wrapping paper than the presents.” Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in a pre-recorded Christmas message recommended reflection amid the commotion of the holiday period.
In North America, many spent a dark and cold holiday following an ice storm. President Barack Obama encouraged fellow Americans to embrace the spirit of Christmas by volunteering at soup kitchens, buying presents for children in need or organizing food or clothing donation drives.
In Iraq on the other hand, militants targeted Christians in two attacks, including a bomb that exploded near a Church during Christmas Mass in Baghdad. The separate bombings killed dozens of people.