Skip to main content

'Peace on Earth' means Syria, Sudan, and Nigeria, Pope says on Christmas

By Ben Brumfield and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 5:56 AM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
Pope Francis delivers his Urbi et Orbi, or "to the city and to the world," message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Wednesday, December 25. Francis spoke to tens of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and Romans in the square below. He said he was joining in the song of Christmas angels with all those hoping "for a better world," and with those who "care for others, humbly." Pope Francis delivers his Urbi et Orbi, or "to the city and to the world," message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Wednesday, December 25. Francis spoke to tens of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and Romans in the square below. He said he was joining in the song of Christmas angels with all those hoping "for a better world," and with those who "care for others, humbly."
HIDE CAPTION
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
Pope Francis' first Christmas as pope
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Peace calls for daily commitment," Francis says in his Christmas Urbi et Orbi message
  • Make it in Syria, Israel, the Palestinian territories, South Sudan, he says
  • The Urbi et Orbi address is customarily political and global, as its name indicates
  • It is Latin and means "to the city (of Rome) and to the world"

(CNN) -- Pope Francis doesn't want a commonly quoted Bible verse chanted as empty words on Christmas Day -- the one about peace on Earth.

"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors," heavenly hosts proclaimed when Christ was born, according to the Vatican translation.

The pontiff told tens of thousands of people gathered in front of the Vatican on Wednesday where he wants that peace to happen -- in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Holy Land.

False pretenses won't do.

Pope Francis' first Christmas message
Pope Francis celebrates first Christmas
God's love a focal point of Christmas mass

"True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely 'facade' which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment," Francis said in his Christmas Urbi et Orbi message.

The Urbi et Orbi address is customarily political and global, as its name indicates. It is Latin and means "to the city (of Rome) and to the world." Popes give the address and blessing on special occasions such as Easter and Christmas.

Vatican TV estimated that about 150,000 attended the blessing in St. Peter's Square, which marked Francis' first Christmas celebration as pope.

He asked Jesus to inspire peace in warring factions around the world.

"Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue."

He also continued his criticism of money-driven evils.

"Lord of heaven and earth," he prayed, "look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity."

Pray for peace

Francis asked Christians to pray for an end to the violence and suffering in Syria and for humanitarian aid to get through to its people. He prayed for people dying of hunger, thirst and violence in the Central African Republic to find an end to war and poverty.

He also addressed a new armed conflict.

"Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state," he prayed.

He asked God to have mercy on civilians killed in Nigeria and Iraq and prayed that Israelis and Palestinians find peace together in "the land where you chose to come into the world."

The Pope delivers first Christmas homily
Poll: U.S. Catholics love Pope Francis
Meet the disfigured man the Pope kissed

Francis remembered refugees fleeing conflicts and misery in Africa who died off the coast of Italy when their overfilled boats capsized before reaching the town of Lampedusa .

He prayed for those who lost entire families and homes to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Pope adored

The massive turnout on Christmas Day mirrored the popularity Francis has enjoyed since becoming head of the Catholic Church. His reputation for being down to earth and genuinely caring about people has touched a chord with millions.

Christmas Eve was no different.

There was a record number of requests to attend this year's Christmas Eve Mass, the Vatican said.

"People are listening to him, because he's speaking in a language that's not Vaticanese," said Gerard O'Connell, a Vatican analyst. "He's speaking the language of ordinary people."

The Pope preached Tuesday evening on love, forgiveness and facing life with bravery and with God's help.

"To us the Lord repeats, 'Do not be afraid.' ... And I, too, repeat, do not be afraid,'" Francis said.

He called on the throngs gathered at St. Peter's Basilica on Tuesday to cast aside hatred.

"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."

Reforms, surprises

Nine months into his papacy, much has been made of the Pope's reforms, among them more scrutiny at the Vatican bank, changes to the church's bureaucratic structure, and a commission to deal with the abuse of minors.

And while this year's Christmas liturgy remains the same, experts say we should expect the unexpected.

"He tends to be a surprise, because he does things that are normal, but are very abnormal in terms of the papacy," O'Connell said. "He brought three homeless men into where he is living to have breakfast with him on his birthday. ... I suspect we will see something else again over the Christmas period."

The festivities began on Saturday, with the Pope's Christmas message to the Curia. He urged the church's governing body to avoid gossip and to focus on service.

And then he practiced what he preached, spending three hours at a local hospital bringing Christmas cheer to sick children.

READ: Pope at Christmas Eve Mass: 'Do not be afraid'

READ: Belief Blog: CNN Poll: Pope's approval rating sky-high

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:21 AM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
The first human trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine has produced promising results, U.S. scientists said.
updated 9:15 AM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen in August abandoned home after address made public.
updated 5:36 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
HBO -- backing a documentary based on "Going Clear," a book about Scientology and Hollywood -- isn't taking any chances with legal side.
updated 2:35 PM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Grandmaster Nguyen Van Chieu has devoted his adult life to spreading the word about Vietnames martial art, Vovinam.
updated 6:36 AM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
England cricketer Nick Compton shares insight into "drive and courage" it takes to face fears as top batsman.
updated 7:59 PM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
updated 8:18 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
updated 6:18 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
updated 5:43 AM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
updated 10:50 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
updated 4:06 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
updated 2:45 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
updated 12:03 PM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT