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story.lead_photo.caption Pope Francis, with Bishop Guido Marini, looks over St. Peter’s Square after delivering a Christmas blessing Tuesday at the Vatican.

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis offered a Christmas wish Tuesday for fraternity among people of different nations, cultures, faiths, races or ideas.

The long war in Syria, famine amid warfare in Yemen, social strife in Venezuela and Nicaragua, conflicts in Ukraine and tensions on the Korean Peninsula were among the pope's concerns in his Christmas Day message, which he read from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

Addressing some 50,000 tourists, pilgrims and Romans who flocked to St. Peter's Square on a mild, sunny day, Francis said the universal message of Christmas is that "God is a good Father and we are all brothers and sisters."

"This truth is the basis of the Christian vision of humanity," Francis said in the traditional papal "Urbi et Orbi" (Latin for "to the city and the world") message. He called for that spirit among individuals of "every nation and culture" as well as among people "with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another."

"Our differences, then, are not a detriment or a danger; they are a source of richness," Francis said.

Francis prayed that all religious minority groups have their right to religious freedom respected, noting that some Christians were celebrating Christmas "in difficult, if not hostile, situations."

Communist China is witnessing a systematic suppression of religion, including some restrictions on Christmas celebrations this year. The government's suppression campaign includes re-education camps for Uighur Muslims and a crackdown on Christian churches.

Without specifying religions or countries, Francis prayed for "all those people who experience ideological, cultural and economic forms of colonization and see their freedom and identity compromised."

Francis urged the international community to find a political solution that "can put aside divisions and partisan interests" and end the war in Syria. He said he hoped that an internationally brokered truce for Yemen would bring relief to that country's people, especially children "exhausted by war and famine."

He encouraged dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians to end conflict "that for over 70 years has rent the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love."

In Africa, Francis recalled the millions fleeing warfare or in need of food, and he prayed for "a new dawn of fraternity to arise over the entire continent."

Francis urged Venezuelans to "work fraternally for the country's development and to aid the most vulnerable." Millions of Venezuelans are fleeing their country's economic and humanitarian crisis in what has become the largest exodus in modern Latin American history, according to the United Nations.

On Monday night, the 82-year-old pope celebrated Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. There he rejected consumerism, declaring that "the food of life is not material riches but love, not gluttony but charity."

The addresses were reminiscent of his remarks last year. On Christmas Eve 2017, he focused on the "worldliness" that he said had taken Christmas hostage, while his Christmas Day 2017 speech made clear his concern that serenity was sorely lacking as the "winds of war" were blowing.

The pope spoke this year in a time when nationalism and a suspicion of migrants are gaining traction across much of the globe, even in Italy, which surrounds Vatican City.

Europeans promoting a nationalist agenda have often called it a defense of Europe's Christian roots. The pope disputed that idea on Tuesday.

"Without the fraternity that Jesus Christ has bestowed on us," the pope said, "our efforts for a more just world fall short, and even our best plans and projects risk being soulless and empty."

Information for this article was contributed by Frances D'Emilio of The Associated Press and by Jason Horowitz of The New York Times.

A Section on 12/26/2018

Print Headline: Pope's speech a wish for fraternity

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  • Nodmcm
    December 26, 2018 at 11:28 a.m.

    VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis urged Christians on Monday to forgo the greed, gluttony and materialism of Christmas and to focus instead on its message of simplicity, charity and love.

    Francis celebrated a Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, opening a busy week for the pope that includes a Christmas Day message and blessing, a Dec. 26 prayer, New Year’s Eve vespers and a Jan. 1 Mass.

    During his homily Monday, Francis lamented that many people find their life’s meaning in possessions when the biblical story of Christ’s birth emphasizes that God appeared to people who were poor when it came to earthly possessions, but faithful.

    “Standing before the manger, we understand that the food of life is not material riches but love, not gluttony but charity, not ostentation but simplicity,” Francis said, dressed in simple white vestments.

    “An insatiable greed marks all human history, even today, when paradoxically a few dine luxuriantly while all too many go without the daily bread needed to survive,” he said.
    Francis has focused on the world’s poor and downtrodden, its refugees and marginalized, during his five-year papacy. The Catholic Church’s first pope from Latin American instructed the Vatican to better care for the homeless around Rome, opening a barber shop, shower and medical clinic for them in the embracing colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

    To extend his outreach this Christmas, Francis sent his trusted secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Iraq to celebrate with the country’s long-suffering Christians.

    Catholics are among the religious minorities targeted for Islamic State-inspired violence that has driven tens of thousands from their homes.

    Parolin met Monday in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. He is scheduled in the coming days to travel to northern Iraq to meet with Kurdish leaders in Irbil and to celebrate Mass in Qaraqosh in the Nineveh plains, near Mosul, according to the Vatican.

    The Vatican has for years expressed concern about the exodus of Christians from communities that have existed since the time of Jesus, and urged them to return when security conditions permit.

    Francis is likely to refer to the plight of Christians in Iraq and Syria during his Christmas Day “Urbi et Orbi” (To the city and the world) speech. He is scheduled to deliver it Tuesday from the loggia of St. Peter’s and again at Mass on New Year’s Day, which the church marks as its world day for peace.

  • Nodmcm
    December 26, 2018 at 11:31 a.m.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!
    To you, the faithful of Rome, to you, the pilgrims, and to all who are linked to us from every part of the world, I renew the joyous proclamation of Bethlehem: "Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among those whom he favors" (Luke 2:14). Like the shepherds who first went with haste to the stable, let us halt in wonder before the sign that God has given us: "A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12). In silence, let us fall to our knees and worship. What does that Child, born for us of the Virgin Mary, have to tell us? What is the universal message of Christmas? It is that God is a good Father and we are all brothers and sisters. This truth is the basis of the Christian vision of humanity. Without the fraternity that Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, our efforts for a more just world fall short, and even our best plans and projects risk being soulless and empty.
    For this reason, my wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity. Fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture. Fraternity among people with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another. Fraternity among persons of different religions. Jesus came to reveal the face of God to all those who seek him. The face of God has been revealed in a human face. It did not appear in an angel, but in one man, born in a specific time and place. By his incarnation, the Son of God tells us that salvation comes through love, acceptance, respect for this poor humanity of ours, which we all share in a great variety of races, languages, and cultures. Yet all of us are brothers and sisters in humanity!
    Our differences, then, are not a detriment or a danger; they are a source of richness. As when an artist is about to make a mosaic, it is better to have tiles of many colors available, rather than just a few! The experience of families teaches us this: As brothers and sisters, we are all different from each other. We do not always agree, but there is an unbreakable bond uniting us, and the love of our parents helps us to love one another.

  • Nodmcm
    December 26, 2018 at 11:32 a.m.

    The same is true for the larger human family, but here, God is our "parent," the foundation and strength of our fraternity. May this Christmas help us to rediscover the bonds of fraternity linking us together as individuals and joining all peoples. May it enable Israelis and Palestinians to resume dialogue and undertake a journey of peace that can put an end to a conflict that for over 70 years has rent the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love.
    May the child Jesus allow the beloved and beleaguered country of Syria once again to find fraternity after these long years of war. May the international community work decisively for a political solution that can put aside divisions and partisan interests, so that the Syrian people, especially all those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere, can return to live in peace in their own country.
    My thoughts turn to Yemen, in the hope that the truce brokered by the international community may finally bring relief to all those children and people exhausted by war and famine. I think too of Africa, where millions of persons are refugees or displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance and food security. May the Holy Child, the King of Peace, silence the clash of arms and allow a new dawn of fraternity to rise over the entire continent, blessing the efforts of all those who work to promote paths of reconciliation in political and social life. May Christmas consolidate the bonds of fraternity uniting the Korean Peninsula and help the path of rapprochement recently undertaken to continue and to reach agreed solutions capable of ensuring the development and well-being of all.
    May this blessed season allow Venezuela once more to recover social harmony and enable all the members of society to work fraternally for the country's development and to aid the most vulnerable sectors of the population. May the newborn Lord bring relief to the beloved land of Ukraine, yearning to regain a lasting peace that is slow to come. Only with a peace respectful of the rights of every nation can the country recover from the sufferings it has endured and restore dignified living conditions for its citizens.
    I am close to the Christian communities of the region, and I pray that they may develop relationships of fraternity and friendship. Before the child Jesus, may the inhabitants of beloved Nicaragua see themselves once more as brothers and sisters, so that divisions and discord will not prevail, but all may work to promote reconciliation and to build together the future of the country.

  • Nodmcm
    December 26, 2018 at 11:33 a.m.

    I want to mention, too, all those peoples that experience ideological, cultural and economic forms of colonization and see their freedom and identity compromised, as well as those suffering from hunger and the lack of educational and health care services.

    A particular thought goes to our brothers and sisters who celebrate the birth of the Lord in difficult, if not hostile situations, especially where the Christian community is a minority, often vulnerable or not taken into account. May the Lord grant that they, and all minorities, may live in peace and see their rights recognized, especially the right to religious freedom.
    May the little child whom we contemplate today in the manger, in the cold of the night, watch over all the children of the world, and every frail, vulnerable and discarded person. May all of us receive peace and consolation from the birth of the Savior and, in the knowledge that we are loved by the one heavenly Father, realize anew that we are brothers and sisters and come to live as such! (Translated from original Italian by Nicola Ruotolo of CNN in Rome)

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