VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis called on Monday on Christians to pray for all the children living in places ravaged by war and conflict in his traditional Christmas Day message.
In his annual Urbi et Orbi (“to the City and the World”) nativity address, which he delivered from the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, the pontiff stressed the importance of recognizing Jesus Christ in the children suffering in various ways around the world.
“Today, as the winds of war are blowing in our world and an outdated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline, Christmas invites us to focus on the sign of the Child and to recognize him in the faces of little children, especially those for whom, like Jesus, there is no place in the inn,” Francis said.
The pope also urged his flock to commit to “making our world more human and more worthy for the children of today and of the future.”
He said that Jesus could be seen in the faces of children affected by conflicts such as the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen; by the growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, and by the bloodshed in African countries such as South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Nigeria.
In addition, Francis called for a de-escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, in Venezuela and in Ukraine.
The head of the Catholic church emphasized the struggles of children of unemployed parents, of child soldiers forced to work by “unscrupulous mercenaries” and children forced to emigrate alone who are often targeted by human traffickers.
Furthermore, he expressed his hope that the international community would work to ensure that the dignity of persecuted minority groups in Myanmar and Bangladesh is adequately protected.
“Jesus knows well the pain of not being welcomed and how hard it is not to have a place to lay one’s head,” Francis added. “May our hearts not be closed as they were in the homes of Bethlehem.”
The pope ended his message by offering a “warm greeting” to people from throughout the world.
“May the birth of Christ the Saviour renew hearts, awaken the desire to build a future of greater fraternity and solidarity, and bring joy and hope to everyone,” he said. “Happy Christmas!”