Pope Francis focused on the plight of refugees and the “outdated model of development [that] continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline” in his annual message at the Christmas Eve Mass in the Vatican.
The Pope also said he prays for “peace for Jerusalem and for all the Holy Land” that “would allow the peaceful coexistence of two States within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders.”
The speech comes weeks after President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and Palestinian leaders have said the move has imperiled peace talks.
In the United Nations, 128 countries voted Tuesday to condemn the U.S. government’s decision to recognize Jerusalem, part of which is claimed by Palestine, with nine countries voting against the measure and 35 abstaining. The U.S. responded by planning to cut $285 million in funding to the international body, ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced Sunday.
Pope Francis’s speech in St. Peter’s Square to roughly 50,000 people touched on areas of suffering in the world, with a stern call to developed countries to be open to refugees of war and strife. Refugees particularly are an occasion to practice charity, and the Pope compared the fleeing children to the trip Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem, which Christians celebrate at Christmas.
While Pope Francis has never specifically condemned Trump’s ban on travelers from certain countries, some of them Muslim, he has been critical of policies that do not open borders to refugees.
“Today, as the winds of war are blowing in our world and an outdated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline,” he said. “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.'”
The Pope also placed blame on several Middle Eastern countries where war and instability has driven citizens to flee to the West.
We see Jesus in the faces of Syrian children still marked by the war that, in these years, has caused such bloodshed in that country. May beloved Syria at last recover respect for the dignity of every person through a shared commitment to rebuild the fabric of society, without regard for ethnic and religious membership. We see Jesus in the children of Iraq, wounded and torn by the conflicts that country has experienced in the last 15 years, and in the children of Yemen, where there is an ongoing conflict that has been largely forgotten, with serious humanitarian implications for its people, who suffer from hunger and the spread of diseases.
Francis also prayed that Venezuela “may resume a serene dialogue among the various elements of society for the benefit of all the beloved Venezuelan people,” and for the families and children who “suffer from the violence of the conflict in Ukraine and its grave humanitarian repercussions.”
Francis concluded by praying, “May our hearts not be closed as they were in the homes of Bethlehem.”
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