Pope Francis urged the world to let the light of Christmas penetrate the “darkness in human hearts” that leads to religious persecution, social injustice, armed conflicts and fear of migrants.
In his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) Christmas Day message, the 83-year-old pope called for peace in the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Venezuela, Ukraine and several African countries caught up in conflicts.
The common thread of his address to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square and millions watching or listening around the world was that change starts in the hearts of individuals.
Francis singled out the torture of Christians by militant groups in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, asking God to console those who suffer for their faith.
On December 1st, at least 14 people were shot dead in an attack on a church in eastern Burkina Faso, where an Islamist insurgency has ignited ethnic and religious tensions.
Francis, who has been scorned by populist politicians because of his defense of refugees and migrants, dedicated a section of his address to their plight, calling for closing migrant detention camps in Libya.
Francis said that while there were many huge problems in the world, people did not have to look far to correct injustices.