On Wednesday, Pope Francis gave his first official Christmas message in Italian, speaking from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. It focused on the theme of peace. “I take up the song of the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born. It is a song which unites heaven and earth, giving praise and glory to heaven, and the promise of peace to earth and all its people,” the Pope stated.
The Pope then defined peace: “True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely “façade” which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ.”
He gave a litany of those suffering thanks to war and oppression, with a special focus on Christians in the Middle East. He prayed for “the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering,” and went out of his way to rejoice in the fact that “followers of different religious confessions are joining us in our prayer for peace in Syria.” He mentioned the Central African Republic and South Sudan, as well as Nigeria, and prayed for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
In an interesting departure from world conflict, he then prayed for the repentance of those involved in human trafficking and child soldier recruitment. He also prayed for those suffering from natural disasters.
Dear brothers and sisters, today, in this world, in this humanity, is born the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Let us pause before the Child of Bethlehem. Let us allow our hearts to be touched, let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God; we need his caress. God is full of love: to him be praise and glory forever! God is peace: let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.