“To us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Is 9:6).
The theme of the Pope’s Christmas message looks at how Jesus was born for everyone, “the Son that God has given to the entire human family”.
Pope Francis gave his traditional Christmas message and Blessing Urbi et Orbi – To the City of Rome and the World – offering words of hope and consolation, saying a birth is always a source of hope, and “this Child, Jesus, was born ‘to us’ – without any borders, privileges or exclusions.”
He pronounced his message in the Hall of Benediction of St Peter’s Basilica, the upper area just behind the central loggia where he would usually have delivered his message.
The pandemic and safety measures in place led to a decision to avoid the risk of large public gatherings in St. Peter’s Square and hence to broadcast live his message from inside the Basilica.
The Pope underscored that thanks to the Christ Child “we can all call one another brothers and sisters” even as we hail from every continent, every language and culture, with our own identities and differences. He said this fundamental reality is something we can all build on to address the monumental challenges we are facing at this moment in history, such as the ecological crisis and serious economic and social imbalances worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.
The unity we need and seek as brothers and sisters, God has made possible, the Pope said, “by giving us his Son Jesus”, a fraternity that is “grounded in genuine love”, where we can encounter others who are different, feel compassion for their sufferings, and draw near and care for them even if they “do not belong to my family, my ethnic group or my religion.”
The Pope prayed that the Child of Bethlehem might help us open our hearts to help the vulnerable, the sick, those unemployed and affected by the pandemic, as well as women have suffered domestic violence during the lockdowns. He also called for a spirit of international cooperation starting with health care to ensure all will have access to vaccines and treatment.
“In everyone, I see reflected the face of God, and in those who suffer, I see the Lord pleading for my help. I see him in the sick, the poor, the unemployed, the marginalised, the migrant and the refugee.”
Looking at the lights and shadows in our world, the Pope offered his prayers and encouraged all people to offer theirs to remember the many children worldwide who are victims of war, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. He called on courageous efforts to work for peace there and throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, and that the Infant Jesus might heal the wounds of the beloved Syrian people and bring comfort to Iraqis and those working for reconciliation, recalling especially the Yazidis who have suffered greatly.
He prayed that peace may take root in Libya and that Israelis and Palestinians might regain mutual trust to continue dialogue to overcome grievances. He encouraged the Lebanese to keep hope alive and for leaders to work for reforms so that the country can persevere in its vocation of freedom and peaceful coexistence.
Looking at other areas of the world, he prayed that the international community be supported in efforts to continue the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, eastern Ukraine. And in areas where armed conflicts and humanitarian crisis persist, he remembered Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Cameroon and for their suffering to finally end.
The Pope remembered the American continent, especially affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and for a calming of tensions in Chile and Venezuela. He recalled the victims of natural disasters, especially in the Philippines and Vietnam. He noted the suffering of the Rohingya people and that they might find respite and hope.
Despite the great difficulties we are facing, the Pope noted that the Christ child “tells us that pain and evil are not the final word”, and he remembered as examples those who “instead work to bring hope, comfort and help to those who suffer and those who are alone.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis recalled families who are unable to unite today due to the pandemic. He prayed that Christmas might help us rediscover “the family as a cradle of life and faith, a place of acceptance and love, dialogue, forgiveness” and “source of peace for all humanity”.
Wishing all a Merry Christmas, he then gave his “Urbi et Orbi” Blessing.