Pope condemns religious violence and persecution in Christmas message

By staff writers
December 25, 2014

In his traditional Christmas Day address, Pope Francis has denounced religiously motivated or aggravated violence and made a strong call for peace with justice.

In his second 'Urbi et Orbi' (city and the world) address he condemned the "brutal persecution" of religious and ethnic minorities, including Christians, throughout the world, citing especially Syria and Iraq.

"Too many people are being held hostage or massacred" in Nigeria, said the pontiff, who is spiritual head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics

The Pope also urged dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and expressed horror at Taliban attacks at Peshawar in Pakistan.

He said that Christians in Iraq and Syria had endured conflict for too long, adding that "together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, [they] 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", Francis said.

The Pope also pleaded for peace in Ukraine, Nigeria, in Libya, South Sudan and other parts of Africa.

He called for comfort for the families of the 132 children killed in a Taliban attack in Pakistan last week, and support for the victims of the Ebola epidemic in Africa and elsewhere.

Earlier this week, the Pope made a surprise telephone call to refugees in a camp near Irbil, in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region.

"You are like Jesus on Christmas night. There was no room for him either," he told them.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, spiritual leader of the Catholic Bishops in England and Wales, affirmed to the congregation at midnight Mass in Westminster Cathedral that Jesus came as a vulnerable child to teach the world love.

He denounced violence in the name of God as "blasphemous".

* More on Christmas from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/christmas

* 'How to remember war so as to invest in peace' (new Ekklesia research essay): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21205

* Christmas truce> Help make it permanent: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21032

[Ekk/3]

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