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Pope Francis reaches out to atheists and other religions in first Christmas message
“I invite even non-believers to desire peace. (Join us) with your desire, a desire that widens the heart. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace,” the pope said in his Christmas message
Swiss Guards marches after Pope Francis delivered his first "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec.25, 2013.
By: Reuters Published on Wed Dec 25 2013
VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis offered Christmas wishes Wednesday for a better world, praying for protection for Christians under attack, battered women and trafficked children, peace in the Middle East and Africa, and dignity for refugees fleeing misery and conflict around the globe.
And he urged atheists and followers of other religions to join together in the quest for global peace.
Francis delivered the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (Latin for “to the city and to the world”) speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to more than 70,000 cheering tourists, pilgrims and Romans in the square below.
In his first Christmas message since being elected pontiff in March, he asked for all to share in the song of Christmas angels, “for every man or woman . . . who hopes for a better world, who cares for others,” humbly.
Among places ravaged by conflict, Francis singled out Syria, which saw its third Christmas during civil war, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Iraq.
In Iraq on Wednesday, militants targeted Christians in two attacks, including a bomb that exploded near a church during Christmas mass in Baghdad. The separate bombings killed dozens of people.
The Vatican has been trying to raise concern in the world for persecution and attacks on Christians in parts of the Middle East and Africa.
“Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted in your name,” Francis said.
Adding an off-the-cuff remark, Francis said he was also inviting atheists to join their desire for peace with everyone else.
“I invite even non-believers to desire peace. (Join us) with your desire, a desire that widens the heart. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace.”
The Pope also prayed that God “bless the land where you chose to come into the world and grant a favourable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Francis then explained his concept of peace.
“True peace is not a balancing of opposing forces. It’s not a lovely
Pope at Christmas Eve Mass: 'Do not be afraid'
(CNN) -- Pope Francis rang in his first Christmas at the Vatican with a Christmas Eve Mass preaching a message of love and forgiveness.
"On this night, let us share the joy of the Gospel. God loves us. He so loves us that he gave us his son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats, 'Do not be afraid,' ... And I, too, repeat, do not be afraid,'" the Pope said.
"Our Father is patient. He loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightened the darkness. Our Father forgives always. He is our peace and light."
He called on the throngs gathered at St. Peter's Basilica on Tuesday to cast aside hatred.
"God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. Yet on the part of the people, there are times of both light and darkness, fidelity and infidelity, obedience and rebellion, times of being a pilgrim people, and times of being a people adrift," the Pope said. "In our personal history, too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light. But if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us, and around us. Whoever hates his brother -- writes the Apostle John -- is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes."
Before the Mass, pilgrims gathering in Vatican City told CNN they were excited to celebrate with the Pope.
"We want to share this special moment with a person who is a beloved person, and we appreciate all he's doing," one woman said.
Pope Francis cradles a baby Jesus statue at start of his first papal Christmas Eve Mass at Vatican
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis lauded Jesus' humble beginning as a poor and vulnerable baby as he celebrated his first Christmas Eve Mass as pontiff Tuesday in St. Peter's Basilica.
"You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich, and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable," Francis said of Jesus as he delivered his homily in the basilica, packed with faithful.
Francis has dedicated much of his nine-month-old papacy to drawing attention to the plight of the poor, of children, and other vulnerable members of society.
He noted that the first to receive news of Jesus' birth were shepherds, who in society were considered "among the last, the outcast."
The bells of St. Peter's rang as Francis, who turned 77 a week ago, walked briskly up the main aisle of the basilica for the ceremony, which began Tuesday 2 1/2 hours before midnight. Keeping with the theme of humility he has set for his new papacy, Francis carried the statue instead of an aide, and kissed a knee of the figure of the newly born Jesus.
The occasional wail of babies in the basilica contrasted at times with the sweet voices of the choir.
The Argentine-born pope has also encouraged his flock to be a joyful church, and he called Jesus' "the light who brightens the darkness."
In the world's history and our own personal history, Francis said, "there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. " He added "if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us."
Francis has applied this same vision to the heart of the Vatican's own working, saying in past remarks there is no place for personal ambition in the clerical hierarchy. Rather, he has insisted, the Catholic church must be one of service to those in need.
Earlier, in the Holy Land, thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world packed the West Bank town of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations, bringing warm holiday cheer to the biblical birthplace of Jesus on a cool, clear night.
The heavy turnout, its highest in years, helped lift spirits in Bethlehem as leaders expressed hope that the coming year would finally bring the Palestinians an independent state of their own.
"The message of Christmas is a message of peace, love and brotherhood. We have to be brothers with each other," said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, as he arrived in town.
At the Vatican during the homily, Francis quoted the Apostle John, saying "'whoever hates his brother is in the darkness'" and "'does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.'"
The basilica ceremony was the pope's only public Mass for Christmas. On Wednesday, Christmas Day, Francis will deliver his Christmas message, meant for the world, from the basilica's central balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square.
As he left the basilica in a procession, Francis was preceded by 10 children carrying flowers, a pair of children each from Italy, the Philippines, Lebanon, his native Argentina and Congo.
AP reporter Mohammed Daraghmeh contributed to this report from Bethlehem.
Pope Francis urges faithful to have open heart to avoid 'pride, deceit, self-seeking'
In his first Christmas Eve Mass, the immensely popular Pope encouraged his flock to emulate Jesus and 'walk in the light' with humility and openness
Read more: www.nydailynews.com...
Today I voice my hope that everyone will come to know the true face of God, the Father who has given us Jesus. My hope is that everyone will feel God's closeness, live in his presence, love him and adore him.
May each of us give glory to God above all by our lives, by lives spent for love of him and of all our brothers and sisters.
Peace to mankind.