JEDDAH: Pope Francis called on Wednesday for an end to war and conflict in the Middle East, and made a particular appeal for a return to harmony in Lebanon.
In his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) Christmas message from the Vatican in Rome, the pope said he prayed for the “Lebanese people ... to rediscover their vocation to be a message of freedom and harmonious coexistence for all.”
Lebanon has suffered three months of turmoil amid street protests against government corruption and incompetence, and sectarian political squabbling over who should form the
In addition to Lebanon, Francis, 83, called for peace in the Holy Land, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. “May Christ bring his light to the many children suffering from war and conflicts in the Middle East and in various countries of the world,” he said.
The pope also devoted a large part of his address to the plight of migrants, which has been a theme of his papacy; he called this month for the closure of migrant detention camps in Libya.
“It is injustice that makes them cross deserts and seas that become cemeteries. It is injustice that forces them to endure unspeakable forms of abuse, enslavement of every kind and torture in inhumane detention camps,” he said on Wednesday.
“It is injustice that turns them away from places where they might have hope for a dignified life, but instead find themselves before walls of indifference.”
The pope said people did not have to look far to remedy injustice, and could make a start in their own communities.
“May God soften our often stony and self-centered hearts, and make them channels of his love. May he bring his smile, through our poor faces, to all the children of the world, to those who are abandoned and those who suffer violence,” he said.
Earlier, the pope joined Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the world’s Anglican community, in sending wishes for “peace and prosperity” to South Sudan.
The spiritual leaders of more than 1.3 billion Christians said they were praying “for a renewed commitment to the path of reconciliation and fraternity” in the world’s newest nation.
Overnight in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, worshippers gathered at the site of Jesus’s birth for midnight mass in the Church of the Nativity, attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Celebrations were bolstered by the return last month of a wooden fragment believed to be from Jesus’s manger, which had been in Europe for nearly 1,400 years.