In his annual Christmas message Thursday, Pope Francis drew inspiration from the Baby Jesus hunted by King Herod to speak of abused and massacred children, starting with those killed by abortion.
“Baby Jesus,” Francis began, “my thoughts go to all children who are killed and abused today.” First among these, the Pope spoke of those destroyed “before they ever see the light of day, deprived of the generous love of their parents and buried in the selfishness of a culture that does not love life.”
Thursday’s address followed on the heels of recent speeches where the Pope has decried the evil of abortion.
Just a month ago, the Pope spoke of abortion as “a sin against the Creator,” and denounced the fiction that “supporting abortion somehow helps women.” He appealed to his hearers both from the perspective of religion and that of secular ethics. “By the light of both faith and right reason,” the Pope said, “human life is always sacred.”
In Thursday’s message, Francis continued in a similar vein, expanding his discourse to children who are victims of wars and exploitation. He expressed his sympathy, for instance, to “those children displaced because of wars and persecution, abused and exploited under our eyes and our silent complicity.”
The Pope also mentioned children “massacred in bomb raids, even in the place where the Son of God was born.” Even today, Francis said, “their helpless silence cries out from under the sword of countless Herods.” In a thinly veiled reference to the ISIS jihadists, Francis said that “the shadow of the current Herod pitches camp on top of their blood today. There are really so many tears in this Christmas along with tears of Baby Jesus!”
The Pope appealed to Jesus to “save the many children who are victims of violence, made the object of illicit trade and trafficking in persons, or forced to become soldiers.” He specifically prayed that Jesus might “comfort the families of children killed in Pakistan last week,” and that he might be “close to all who suffer from diseases, in particular to the victims of the epidemic of Ebola.”
The Pope ended his address asking that “the power of Christ” be felt in the “many hearts who suffer wars, persecution and slavery,” so that, one day, “we can say with joy: ‘Our eyes have seen your salvation.’”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome