Tens of thousands of people turned out on St. Peter’s Square to hear the Argentine pope deliver his « Urbi et Orbi » (to the city and the world) blessing and message, marking the second Christmas since his election last year.
The Pontiff used his address to highlight the plight of refugees, hostages and all those suffering in protracted conflicts across the world this year, while urging people not to be indifferent to their suffering.
« I ask him, the Saviour of the world, to look upon our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict, and who, together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, are suffering a brutal persecution, » he said.
« Too many people are being held hostage or massacred.
« May Christmas bring them hope, as indeed also to the many displaced persons, exiles and refugees, children, adults and elderly, from this region and from the whole world. »
On Christmas Eve, Francis made a surprise call to Christian refugees in a camp in Ankawa, Iraq, telling them: « You are like Jesus on Christmas night. There was no room for him either.”
The majority of refugees living in the Ankawa camp are Christians forced to flee Isis militants, who have also brutally targeted Muslims and Yazidis.
The 78-year-old pope spoke from the same balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica where he first appeared as pontiff on the night of his election on March 13, 2013.
« May indifference be changed into closeness and rejection into hospitality, so that all who now are suffering may receive the necessary humanitarian help to overcome the rigours of winter, return to their countries and live with dignity, » he said, speaking in Italian.
Pope Francis also appealed for an end to conflicts in African countries, urged dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and thanked those helping the victims of the Ebola epidemic.