By editor - 26 December, 2013
In his traditional Urbi et Orbi Christmas message, Pope Francis dwelt on the announcement of the angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem.
Addressing the tens of thousands of pilgrims who had gathered in St Peter’s Square, the Pontiff told them, “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.”
“Above all else,” the Pope said, Christmas calls us “to give glory to God, for He is good, He is faithful, He is merciful.”
He prayed that all people would come to know “the true face of the God the Father, who has given us Jesus.” And he encouraged everyone to glorify God by spending their lives “for love of Him and of all our brothers and sisters.”
The majority of the Holy Father’s message was taken up with the theme of “Peace to mankind.”
Pope Francis reminded the faithful that “true peace . . . is not a balance of opposing forces,” a façade hiding conflicts and divisions. Rather “peace calls for daily commitment . . . starting from God’s gift, from the grace which He has given us in Jesus Christ.”
He called to mind children who are victims of wars, the elderly, battered women, the sick. He made particular mention of those affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria, and called on the Lord to help all sides of the conflict “to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid.”
Recalling the power of prayer, he expressed his happiness that followers of different religions were all praying together for peace in Syria; he also invited non-believers “to desire peace with that yearning that makes the heart grow: all united, either by prayer or by desire. But all of us, for peace!”
In his remarks he also spoke about the Central African Republic, asking the Lord to bring peace to that country. He looked to South Sudan, praying that the Lord would “foster social harmony” in that land.
Pope Francis invoked the “Prince of Peace” to lead people to give up their arms and “undertake the path of dialogue,” mentioning especially Nigeria and the Holy Land. And he prayed the God would “heal the wounds of the beloved country of Iraq, once more struck by frequent acts of violence.”
The Holy Father also asked God to “protect all who are persecuted for your name” and prayed for peace and consolation for the displaced and for refugees, especially in the Horn of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. And he expressed the hope that “tragedies like those we have witnessed this year, with so many deaths at Lampedusa, never occur again.”
He prayed the “Child of Bethlehem” to “touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking,” which he called a crime against humanity. Pope Francis also recalled the many children who are victims of armed conflicts, especially those forced to become child soldiers.
Finally, Pope Francis called on God to protect the earth, “frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity.”
And he asked God to help and protect victims of natural disasters, especially those in the Philippines, the victims of the recent typhoon.
Pope Francis concluded his message with an appeal to allow our hearts to be touched by God.
“Dear brothers and sisters, today, in this world, in this humanity, is born the Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. Let us pause before the Child of Bethlehem. Let us allow our hearts to be touched, let us not fear this. Let us not fear that our hearts be moved. We need this!”
“Let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God; we need his caress. God’s caresses do not harm us. They give us peace and strength. We need his caresses. 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.”
After concluding his Christmas Message, the Holy Father imparted the Urbi et Orbi Blessing to the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square, and to all those listening to his words via all the modern means of communications. Having delivered his Blessing, Pope Francis wished everyone throughout the world a Merry Christmas:
“To you, dear brothers and sisters, gathered from throughout the world in this Square, and to all those from different countries who join us through the communications media, I offer my cordial best wishes for a merry Christmas!
“On this day illumined by the Gospel hope which springs from the humble stable of Bethlehem, I invoke the Christmas gift of joy and peace upon all: upon children and the elderly, upon young people and families, the poor and the marginalised. May Jesus, who was born for us, console all those afflicted by illness and suffering; may he sustain those who devote themselves to serving our brothers and sisters who are most in need. Happy Christmas!”
Courtesy: Vatican Radio