In Ukraine as in Syria, in the Holy Land as in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, in the Sahel as in Yemen, in Burma as in Iran or in Haiti, the world “is experiencing a serious shortage of peace”. This was emphasized by Pope Francis in the traditional Urbi et Orbi message delivered at noon on Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, from the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and around the world, Merry Christmas!
May the Lord Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, bring to everyone the love of God, source of confidence and hope. And may he bring you at the same time the gift of peace that the angels announced to the shepherds of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men whom He loves” (Lk 2 , 14).
On this feast day, we turn our gaze to Bethlehem. The Lord comes into the world in a cave and he is lying in a manger for animals, because his parents could not find a place to stay, when the hour of childbirth had come for Mary. He comes among us in silence and in the night because the Word of God does not need spotlights or the clamor of human voices. He himself is the Word which gives meaning to existence, he is the light which illuminates the way. “The true Light – said the Gospel – which enlightens everyone as he comes into the world” (Jn 1, 9).
Jesus is born among us, he is God with us. He comes to accompany our daily life to share everything with us, joys and sufferings, hopes and worries. He comes as a helpless child. He was born in the cold, poor among the poor. Needing everything, he knocks on the door of our hearts to find warmth and shelter.
Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, let us be enveloped by the light and go to see the sign that God has given us. Let us overcome the torpor of spiritual sleep and the false images of the party that make us forget who is being celebrated. Let’s get out of the turmoil that anesthetizes the heart and pushes us to prepare decorations and gifts rather than to contemplate the Event: the Son of God who was born for us.
Brothers and sisters, let us turn to Bethlehem where the first cries of the Prince of Peace resound. Yes, because Jesus himself, is our peace: this peace which the world cannot give and which God the Father gave to humanity by sending his Son into the world. Saint Leo the Great has an expression which, in the conciseness of the Latin language, sums up the message of this day: “Natalis Domini, Natalis is peaceful“, “The Christmas of the Lord is the Christmas of peace” (Sermon 26, 5).
Jesus Christ is also the path of peace. By his incarnation, his passion, his death and his resurrection, he opened the passage from a closed world, oppressed by the darkness of enmity and war, to an open world, free to live in brotherhood and in the peace. Brothers and sisters, let us follow this path! But to be able to do that, to be able to walk behind Jesus, we have to strip ourselves of the burdens that bind us and keep us stuck.
And what are these burdens? What is this “ball”? These are the same negative passions that kept King Herod and his court from acknowledging and welcoming the birth of Jesus: that is, attachment to power and money, pride, hypocrisy, lying. These burdens prevent us from going to Bethlehem, they exclude us from the grace of Christmas and close our access to the path of peace. And we must note, indeed, with sadness that the winds of war continue to blow cold on humanity, although the Prince of Peace is given to us.
If we want it to be Christmas, the Christmas of Jesus and of peace, let us look towards Bethlehem and fix our gaze on the face of the Child who was born for us! And on this innocent little face, let us recognize that of the children who, in all regions of the world, aspire to peace.
May our gaze be filled with the faces of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters who are living this Christmas in the dark, in the cold or far from home, because of the destruction caused by ten months of war. May the Lord make us ready for concrete gestures of solidarity to help those who suffer, and may he enlighten the minds of those who have the power to silence the guns and put an immediate end to this senseless war! Unfortunately, we prefer to listen to other arguments dictated by the logics of the world. But the voice of the Child, who listens to it?
Our era is experiencing a serious lack of peace also in other regions, in other theaters of this Third World War. We are thinking of Syria, still tormented by a conflict that has faded into the background but is not over. And we think of the Holy Land where violence and clashes have increased in recent months, with deaths and injuries. Let us implore the Lord so that there, in the land where it was born, dialogue and the search for mutual trust between Palestinians and Israelis can resume. May the Child Jesus support the Christian communities that live throughout the Middle East, so that in each of these countries the beauty of fraternal coexistence between people of different faiths can be experienced. May he help Lebanon in particular, so that it can finally recover, with the support of the international community and with the strength of brotherhood and solidarity. May the light of Christ illuminate the Sahel region where the peaceful coexistence of peoples and traditions is broken by clashes and violence. May he guide towards a lasting truce in Yemen and towards reconciliation in Burma and Iran, so that all bloodshed ceases. May he inspire the political authorities and all people of goodwill on the American continent to work for the pacification of the political and social tensions affecting various countries; I think in particular of the Haitian people who have suffered for so long.
On this day when it is good to gather around the laid table, let us not look away from Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”, and think of those who suffer from hunger, especially children, so that every day large amounts of food are wasted and resources are spent on weapons. The war in Ukraine has further aggravated the situation, leaving entire populations at risk of starvation, particularly in Afghanistan and the countries of the Horn of Africa. Any war — as we know — provokes hunger and uses food itself as a weapon, preventing its distribution to people who are already suffering. On this day, following the example of the Prince of Peace, let us all commit ourselves, and above all those who have a political responsibility, so that food is only an instrument of peace. As we enjoy the joy of reuniting with our loved ones, let us think of the families most hurt by life, and of those who, in this time of economic crisis, are struggling with unemployment and lacking the necessities to live.
Dear brothers and sisters, today like yesterday, Jesus, the true light, comes to a world sick with indifference — a nasty disease! — who does not welcome him (cf. Jn 1:11) but who on the contrary rejects him as happens to many strangers, or who ignores him as we too often do with the poor. Let us not forget today the many refugees and displaced people who knock on our doors in search of support, warmth and food. Let us not forget the marginalized, the lonely, the orphans and the elderly — the wisdom of a people — who are in danger of being discarded, the prisoners whom we regard only for their errors and not as human beings.
Brothers and sisters, Bethlehem shows us the simplicity of God who reveals himself not to the wise and learned but to the little ones, to those whose hearts are pure and open (cf. Mt 11:25). Like the shepherds, will we also without delay marvel at the unthinkable event of God becoming man for our salvation. He who is the source of all good makes himself poor (cf. Gregory of Nazianzus, Speech 45) and asks for alms from our poor humanity. Let us be moved by the love of God, and follow Jesus, who stripped himself of his glory to make us share in his fullness (cf. ibid).
Merry Christmas to everyone!
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The world is in dire need of peace – L’Osservatore Romano
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