Pope prays for world's suffering children on Christmas

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

Those who recognize the Lord in the baby Jesus in the manger also should
recognize his presence in children suffering today because of war, poverty and
immigration, Pope Francis said.

“Jesus knows well the
pain of not being welcomed and how hard it is not to have a place to lay one’s
head,” the pope said Dec. 25, praying that people would work together to
make the world “more human and more worthy for the children of today and
of the future.”

Standing on the central balcony
of St. Peter’s Basilica on a clear, crisp Christmas day, Pope Francis spoke
about the world’s children before formally giving his blessing “urbi et
orbi” (to the city and the world).

Christmas is a time to
live again “the mystery of the God who comes, who assumes our mortal human
flesh, and who becomes lowly and poor in order to save us,” the pope said.
“And this moves us deeply, for great is the tenderness of our

The shepherds, who were
the first after Mary and Joseph to adore the newborn Jesus, are models for
people today, teaching them to not be “scandalized” by his poverty
and lowly birth, but to acknowledge him as Lord and learn to recognize his
presence in others shivering in the cold, wrapped in rags and without a worthy
home, the pope said.

“We see Jesus in
the many children forced to leave their countries to travel alone in inhuman
conditions and who become an easy target for human traffickers,” he said.
“Through their eyes we see the drama of all those forced to emigrate and
risk their lives to face exhausting journeys that end at times in tragedy.”

“We see Jesus in
the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing
tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said, adding a plea for
peace in Jerusalem and for a resumption of negotiations “that would allow
the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and
internationally recognized borders.”

“We see Jesus in
the faces of Syrian children still marked by the war that, in these years, has
caused such bloodshed in that country,” Pope Francis said, adding prayers
for a shared commitment to rebuilding the country with full respect for
religious and ethnic differences.

Children continue to
suffer in Iraq, torn by war and conflict over the past 15 years, he said. And
in Yemen, which has been “largely forgotten” by the world, conflict
has led to a serious humanitarian crisis with hunger and disease, including a
massive cholera outbreak, threatening more than 20 million people —
three-quarters of the nation’s population.

Pope Francis also prayed
for the children and people of South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Congo, Central
African Republic and Nigeria.

“We see Jesus in
the children worldwide wherever peace and security are threatened by the danger
of tensions and new conflicts,” he said, adding a prayer for the end of
tensions and the threat of nuclear war with North Korea.

Looking to South America,
the pope said, “to the Baby Jesus we entrust Venezuela that it may resume
a serene dialogue among the various elements of society for the benefit of all
the beloved Venezuelan people.”

In Eastern Ukraine,
where a “Christmas truce” went into effect Dec. 23, Pope Francis
said, “we see Jesus in children who, together with their families, suffer
from the violence of the conflict in Ukraine and its grave humanitarian
repercussions; we pray that the Lord may soon grant peace to this dear country.”

But children suffer
greatly not only because of war, conflict and migration. The pope also prayed
for “the children of unemployed parents who struggle to offer their
children a secure and peaceful future” and for “those whose childhood
has been robbed and who, from a very young age, have been forced to work or to
be enrolled as soldiers by unscrupulous mercenaries.”

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