Greeting the 70,000-strong crowd below his balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis issued a wide-ranging call for peace in areas as disparate as Syria and the Central African Republic, and explicitly pled for “nonbelievers to desire peace” along with the world’s Catholics.
The New York Times reports that, much like Pope Benedict XVI’s last year, the Pope Francis Christmas address focused on peace in areas of the world suffering the persecution of Christians and others broadly, particularly Syria. The Central African Republic, which Pope Francis described as “often forgotten and overlooked,” also made it into the address because of recent escalating strife between Christians and Muslims there, as well as South Sudan, which appears increasingly on the brink of civil war. On a global scale, Pope Francis called for aiding immigrants seeking a “dignified life” by leaving their homeland for greener pastures.
Peace, the Pope emphasized, required the involvement of all people, and a “daily commitment” on a global scale. The purest peace he defined as “homemade peace” that was not superficial or hiding animus that still existed below the surface. To this end, he cited atheists specifically and called for them to unite in their desire for peace regardless of religious affiliation. “I invite even non-believers to desire peace. (Join us) with your desire, a desire that widens the heart,” he told the crowd. As long as people sought peace, “either with prayer or desire,” the goal was attainable.
The inclusion of those who are often seen as pariahs to traditionalists in the Catholic Church continues a tenure marked by unexpectedly inclusive language from Pope Francis. While having staunchly noted that “the door is closed” for female priests and that “the Church is clear” on homosexuality and abortion, he also made a note of refusing to “judge” gay priests and has emphasized the plight of the poor over social issues such as contraceptives and abortion. His language led him to be both Time’s and The Advocate‘s Person of the Year this year, and he has been lauded for opening up the Church language to many who previously felt excluded.
His statements have also garnered controversy, as he alienated many politically conservative Catholics by attacking the “tyranny” capitalism and “trickle-down theories”— statements that led the Pope to have to clarify that he believed “Marxist ideology is wrong.” Despite the controversies, Pope Francis continues to enjoy significantly high popularity among American Catholics.
Below, highlights from Pope Francis’ Christmas message via the Chicago Tribune on Breitbart.tv: