Tuesday 6 December 2016

Pope calls in Christmas message for unity against militant atrocities

Philip Pullella

Published 25/12/2015 | 11:56

Pope Francis delivers his
Pope Francis delivers his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and to the world) blessing from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis makes a blessing during the "Urbi et Orbi" (to the City and the World) message on Christmas Day from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Pope Francis arrive to leads "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Swiss Guards stand before Pope Francis delivered his first "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Pope Francis delivers a "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Pope Francis delivers a "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Pope Francis delivers a "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Francis urged the world in his Christmas message on Friday to unite to end atrocities by Islamist militants that he said were causing immense suffering in many countries.

* Pope marks third Christmas since 2013 election
* "Urbi et Orbi" address to Rome and the world
* Tight security at St. Peter's Square

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Security was tight at the Vatican as Francis, marking the third Christmas since his election in 2013, read his traditional Christmas Day "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) address from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

Pope Francis waves during the
Pope Francis waves during the "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Tens of thousands of people had to have their bags checked as they entered the Vatican area and then go through airport-style screening if they wanted to enter St. Peter's Square.

Counter-terrorist police with machine guns discreetly patrolled the area in unmarked vans with dark windows.

After calling for an end to the civil wars in Syria and Libya, the pope said: "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 was clearly referring to Islamic State militants who have carried out numerous attacks in those countries and destroyed many cultural heritage sites. In October, Islamic State militants blew up the Arch of Triumph, a jewel in the exquisite collection of ruins in the Syrian oasis city of Palmyra.

Pope Francis delivers a
Pope Francis delivers a "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

BRUTAL TERRORISM

The pontiff condemned recent "brutal acts of terrorism," including the Nov. 13 attacks by Islamist militants that killed 130 people in Paris, and the downing of a Russian plane over Egypt's Sinai peninsula that killed 224 people on Oct. 31. Both were claimed by Islamic State.

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to leads
Pope Francis waves as he arrives to leads "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

"Only God's mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst," he said. "The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations.".

He called for peace between Israelis and Palestinians in the area where Jesus was born.

"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," he said.

He asked God to bring consolation and strength to Christians who are being persecuted around the world and called for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, South Sudan and Ukraine.

Francis said the human dignity of far too many people around the world was trampled on, including that of refugees and migrants.

"Even today great numbers of men and women are deprived of their human dignity and, like the child Jesus, suffer cold, poverty, and rejection," he said.

"May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade."

Reuters

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