Pope prays for Middle East peace

Pope prays for Middle East peace
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Pope Francis delivers a speech from the balcony of St. Peter’s basilica during the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” Christmas message to the city and the world, on Dec. 25, 2019 at St. Peter’s square in Vatican. (AFP/Vatican Media)
Pope prays for Middle East peace
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Pope Francis meets the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the end of a two day Spiritual retreat with South Sudan leaders at the Vatican, April 11, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 December 2019

Pope prays for Middle East peace

Pope prays for Middle East peace
  • The pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury sent wishes of “peace and prosperity” to South Sudan as negotiations faltered between the government and rebels
  • Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, ravaged by fire in April, was unable to hold its traditional Christmas Eve Mass for the first time in more than 200 years

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
next government.

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.