In his annual Christmas Day address, Pope Francis offered a message of hope and a call for kindness to migrants around the world.
“May the Son of God, come down to earth from heaven, protect and sustain all those who, due to these and other injustices, are forced to emigrate in the hope of a secure life,” the pontiff said from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
“It is injustice that makes them cross deserts and seas that become cemeteries,” he said. “It is injustice that turns them away from places where they might have hope for a dignified life, but instead find themselves before walls of indifference.”
The Christmas speech is titled “Urbi et Orbi”: to the city and the world.
He prayed that God would comfort those who are suffering, and he called on people to show good will and find solutions to ongoing humanitarian crises. Francis urged an end to conflicts in the Middle East, Latin America, Ukraine and Africa, and prayed for those who are persecuted on the basis of religion.
“May Christ bring his light to the many children suffering from war and conflicts in the Middle East and in various countries of the world,” Francis said in his seventh Christmas address as the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
“May he bring comfort to the beloved Syrian people who still see no end to the hostilities that have rent their country over the last decade. Today may he stir the consciences of men and women of good will. May he inspire governments and the international community to find solutions to allow the peoples of that region to live together in peace and security, and put an end to their unspeakable sufferings.”
Last week, Francis placed a cross encircled by a life jacket inside the Vatican, in memory of the migrants who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as they sought refuge in Europe.
In a separate message on Wednesday, the pope and two other religious officials urged leaders in South Sudan to uphold their commitment to form a coalition government next year. Increased stability would allow the pope to visit the country, which he has said he hopes to do in 2020, Reuters reports.
The pontiff concluded his message with a call to recognize the suffering around us and act to help those in need.
“May he soften our often stony and self-centered hearts, and make them channels of his love,” he said. “May he bring his smile, through our poor faces, to all the children of the world: to those who are abandoned and those who suffer violence. Through our frail hands, may he clothe those who have nothing to wear, give bread to the hungry and heal the sick. Through our friendship, such as it is, may he draw close to the elderly and the lonely, to migrants and the marginalized. On this joyful Christmas Day, may he bring his tenderness to all and brighten the darkness of this world.”
NPR’s senior European correspondent Sylvia Poggioli contributed from Rome.