Christ's birth can bring peace, hope to suffering world, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christmas is a reminder that
through the birth of Christ, hope and peace are possible and that only through his
grace can humanity find peaceful solutions to the world’s most difficult
problems, Pope Francis said.

“Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many
forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our
midst,” the pope said Dec. 25. “Where God is born, hope is born. Where God
is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for
hatred and for war.”

Heightened security around St. Peter’s Square did little
to dampen the spirits of an estimated 50,000 people attending the pope’s solemn
Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world). Many in the crowd dressed festively and applauded the music of the Vatican’s marching

However, police and anti-terrorism task forces were a
visible sign of a world shaken by violence and extremism; conflicts that have
not even spared the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The pope prayed that Israelis
and Palestinians would reach a peaceful agreement that would end the “conflict
which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire

The pope also prayed that recently approved agreements
would bring a quick end to the wars afflicting Syria and Libya, two countries
ravaged by war for several years. He also prayed that the international
community would find ways to end atrocities in Iraq, Yemen, Congo, Burundi, South Sudan and

Victims of terrorism were also in the pope’s thoughts and
prayers as he remembered the victims of the Russian airliner bombed in Egyptian
airspace and terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris; Bamako, Mali
and Tunis, Tunisia.

Christians persecuted for their faith were remembered as
the pope prayed that “the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength”
to those suffering.

Recalling the thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing poverty and
war, Pope Francis compared the lack of respect for their dignity to the situation of Christ who was born
into the world suffering “cold, poverty and rejection.”

“May our closeness today be felt by those who are
most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the
victims of human trafficking and the drug trade,” he said.

As the church celebrates the Holy Year of Mercy, the pope
said mercy is the “most precious gift which God gives us” and that
Christians “are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father
for each of us.”

The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica pealed at midday, just as they
did late Dec. 24 when thousands packed the church for Christmas
Mass. Hundreds of people who could not find room in the basilica braved the cold weather and watched on giant screens from St. Peter’s Square.

With his voice noticeably hoarse from a bout of flu, the
pope said in his homily that the prophetic words of Isaiah are those of a
fulfilled promise of joy and gladness that are “a sure sign that the
message contained in the mystery of this night is truly from God.”

Doubt and indifference, he stressed, should be left
to skeptics who “by looking to reason alone, never find the truth.”

“There is no room for the indifference which reigns
in the hearts of those unable to love for fear of losing something,” he
said. “All sadness has been banished, for the Child Jesus brings true comfort
to every heart.”

The birth of Jesus, he continued, is a call for all
Christians to “put away all fear and dread” and to follow the path
that leads to Christ “who has been ‘born to us,’ he was ‘given to us’ as the
prophet Isaiah proclaims.”

The coming of Christ into the world, the pope said, shows what is truly essential in life. Despite his birth into the
“nothingness” of poverty, Jesus shows men and women who are simple of
heart the true path of “authentic liberation and perennial
redemption” while giving them strength to reject “godless ways and the
richness of the world.”

“In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism
and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child
calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced,
consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is a essential,” he said.

Christians, the pope said, are called to cultivate a
sense of justice, discernment and doing God’s will in a world that is often
“merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin.”

As a choral rendition of “Silent Night”
echoed through the basilica during the distribution of Communion, many
attending the Mass were visibly moved. A nun looking reverently toward the
main altar shed a single tear while smiling; gazing with the eyes that
Pope Francis said in his homily all Christians are called to look upon the Baby

“Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too, with
eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God.
And in his presence may our hearts burst forth in prayer: ‘Show us, Lord, your
mercy, and grant us your salvation,'” the pope said.

– – –

Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Original Article