On Friday, Pope Francis made his third Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) address from the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, urging the world to end violence. Security was visibly tighter than in the past and the Pope was pale and his voice hoarse, confirming reports that he was suffering from the flu.
Tens of thousands who came to see the Pope had their bags checked and passed through metal detectors before entering St. Peter’s Square. Counter-terrorist police with automatic weapons patrolled the area, as did unmarked security vans.
Pope Francis made an explicit call for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Where God is born, hope is born. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war. Yet precisely where the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built. May Israelis and Palestinians resume direct dialogue and reach an agreement which will enable the two peoples to live together in harmony, ending a conflict which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire region.”
The pope called for an end to the civil wars in Libya and Syria, as well as violent conflict in many other areas.
“We pray to the Lord that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people. It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country. May the attention of the international community be unanimously directed to ending the atrocities which in those countries, as well as in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, even now reap numerous victims, cause immense suffering and do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples.”
He also referred to recent terror attacks, yet he never referred to the groups responsible, only to the victims.
“My thoughts also turn to those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis.”
This is consistent with the theology he stated at Midnight Mass, the previous night, when he said:
“In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God’s will.”