· In his first Christmas message Pope Francis invites humanity to free itself of every form of violence ·
As 2013 draws to a close, Pope Francis reviewed some of the saddest pages of the year before invoking the gift of peace upon the city of Rome and upon the world. Peace, which he said is the fruit the common and united commitment of all people, without distinction.
On the occasion of his first Urbi et Orbi message, the Pope stepped out onto the Loggia in the simplicity of his white cassock and spoke strong words. He reminded everyone that peace “is not a balance of opposing forces”, nor is it “a lovely façade which conceals conflicts and divisions”. Peace, he said, calls for daily commitment; and making peace requires that all men be united in building this work of art. It was no accident that he boldly stated that “peace is an art”. For it must be fashioned and forged by men's hands, hands “warmed by the tenderness of God”. We need to seek out his caresses which “do not harm us” but rather “give us peace and strength”.
Remaining united for peace seemed to be the watchword for Christmas 2013. At Holy Mass on Christmas Eve, Pope Francis renewed his invitation to walk together to illumine man's future with the light of God. However walking together, as the Pontiff clearly note, does not mean being transformed into a people who goes astray. Rather, it means going to Jesus in order that he might lead us into the Promised Land.
The journey is a difficult one fraught with painful tragedies. In his Urbi et Orbi Message on Christmas Day, Pope Francis recalled the most tragic events of the year: the suffering of the Syrian people; the plight of the “often forgotten and overlooked” people of Central African Republic; the victims in South Sudan where tensions are threatening peaceful coexistence in the young state; and the victims of religious intolerance in so many, indeed in too many countries in the world. As the Pope noted prior to praying the Angelus with faithful gathered in St Peter's Square on the December 26th Feast of the Church's first martyr St Stephen, today more and more Christians are “unjustly accused and made the objects of various kinds of violence. “Unfortunately,” the Pope said, “I am sure they are more numerous today than in the early days of the Church”. We need to pray for them. However, this is not enough, he said. We also need to ensure that religious liberty is guaranteed for all believers, not just on paper, for in many countries which profess to protect such rights, “especially Christians face restrictions and discrimination”.
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