In his second Christmas Mass since becoming pontiff, Pope Francis gave an emotional speech to thousands of people at St. Peter's Basilica Thursday, denouncing the current brutal conflict, hatred and violence around the world.
The pope condemned ISIS, the abuse of children, hostages in Nigeria, and Ebola, while spreading a message of peace.
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"Today I ask him, the Saviour of the world, to look upon our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict, and who, together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, are suffering a brutal persecution," Francis said of the conflict with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
On the hostage crisis in Nigeria, in which nearly 300 schoolgirls who were kidnapped from their dormitories at a school by the Islamist military group Boko Haram, the Pope said, "May Christ the Saviour give peace to Nigeria, where [even in these hours] more blood is being shed and too many people are unjustly deprived of their possessions, held as hostages or killed."
Francis also spoke of the children killed in Pakistan this month, as well as the victims of Ebola, "above all in Liberia, in Sierra Leone and in Guinea."
"I think also of those infants massacred in bomb attacks, also those where the Son of God was born," he said. "Truly there are so many tears this Christmas."
Francis folded abortion into his message of wrongful deaths of children, condemning "infants killed in the womb deprived of that generous love of their parents and then buried in the egoism of a culture that does not love life."
It's been a big year for the Catholic leader. When he succeeded Pope Benedict XVI last March, he promised to change the cemented ways of the Vatican. He has said the church cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptives. He asked “Who am I to judge?” in response to reports of gay clergy members. And his personal plea contributed to the thawing of more than five decades of tense U.S.-Cuban relations.
During his annual Christmas greeting earlier this week, Francis critiqued the cardinals, bishops and priests who comprise the bureaucracy that serves him; he accused the Holy See of lusting for power, living hypocritical double lives and suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer’s” that has made the group forget the expectations to serve as joyful men of God, The Associated Press reported.
The Catholic Church, he added, “is called on to always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fulfill its mission. But even it, as any human body, can suffer from ailments, dysfunctions, illnesses.”
The issues, Francis said, should be amended and cured by the beginning of the new year.