12/25/2014, 00.00
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Pope; May Christmas bring the hope of peace to those suffering in the Middle East and the world, especially the children

In his 'Urbi et orbi' message, Francis turned his thoughts to the victims of war in the Middle East, Nigeria, Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as to those who suffer from tensions in Ukraine. " May Jesus save the vast numbers of children who are victims of violence, made objects of trade and trafficking, or forced to become soldiers; children, so many abused children. May he give comfort to the families of the children killed in Pakistan last week. May he be close to all who suffer from illness, especially the victims of the Ebola epidemic".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - May Jesus, "salvation for every person and for every people," look at those suffering from wars, persecution, slavery, disease and poverty, especially children. In the solemn blessing 'Urbi et Orbi' (to Rome and the world), Pope Francis turned his thoughts to the excessive suffering that continue to hurt the world today, to those who are victims of conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, to the children killed in Pakistan, to the many victims of the "many Herods", to those who are sold, to those suffering from diseases, especially from Ebola.

The pontiff expressed the same closeness that he expressed yesterday afternoon in a phone call to the refugee camp in Ankawa, near Erbil, Iraq. "You are like Jesus on the night of his birth," he told them. "There was no place for him and he was kicked out and had to flee to Egypt to save himself. You are like Jesus this night: I bless you so much and I am close to you. Think of yourself like Jesus in this situation and this makes me pray more for you."

Today, from the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, Francis greeted more than 100,000 people gathered in St Peter's Square with the proclamation "Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, was born for us. [. . .] Yes, brothers and sisters, Jesus is the salvation for every person and for every people!

"Today I ask him, the Saviour of the world, to look upon our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict, and who, together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, are suffering a brutal persecution. May Christmas bring them hope, as indeed also to the many displaced persons, exiles and refugees, children, adults and elderly, from this region and from the whole world. May indifference be changed into closeness and rejection into hospitality, so that all who now are suffering may receive the necessary humanitarian help to overcome the rigours of winter, return to their countries and live with dignity. May the Lord open hearts to trust, and may he bestow his peace upon the whole Middle East, beginning with the land blessed by his birth, thereby sustaining the efforts of those committed effectively to dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

"May Jesus, Saviour of the world, protect all who suffer in Ukraine, and grant that their beloved land may overcome tensions, conquer hatred and violence, and set out on a new journey of fraternity and reconciliation.

"May Christ the Saviour give peace to Nigeria, where [even in these hours] more blood is being shed and too many people are unjustly deprived of their possessions, held as hostages or killed. I invoke peace also on the other parts of the African continent, thinking especially of Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and various regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I beseech all who have political responsibility to commit themselves through dialogue to overcoming differences and to building a lasting, fraternal coexistence.

 "May Jesus save the vast numbers of children who are victims of violence, made objects of trade and trafficking, or forced to become soldiers; children, so many abused children. May he give comfort to the families of the children killed in Pakistan last week. May he be close to all who suffer from illness, especially the victims of the Ebola epidemic, above all in Liberia, in Sierra Leone and in Guinea. As I thank all who are courageously dedicated to assisting the sick and their family members, I once more make an urgent appeal that the necessary assistance and treatment be provided.

"The Child Jesus. My thoughts turn to all those children today who are killed and ill-treated, be they infants killed in the womb, deprived of that generous love of their parents and then buried in the egoism of a culture that does not love life; be they children displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence. I think also of those infants massacred in bomb attacks, also those where the Son of God was born. Even today, their impotent silence cries out under the sword of so many Herods. On their blood stands the shadow of contemporary Herods. Truly there are so many tears this Christmas, together with the tears of the Infant Jesus.

"Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, the salvation given by God to each one of us, to each man and woman and to all the peoples of the earth. May the power of Christ, which brings freedom and service, be felt in so many hearts afflicted by war, persecution and slavery. May this divine power, by its meekness, take away the hardness of heart of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference. May his redeeming strength transform arms into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness. Then we will be able to cry out with joy: 'Our eyes have seen your salvation'.

"Happy Christmas to all!"

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