Pope Francis used his traditional Christmas message to call for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to help bring peace to the Middle East.
Pope Francis said in his "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the City and to the World") address from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica that children in the Middle East continue to suffer because of "growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians."
He expressed his hope to tens of thousands of worshipers at the Vatican that the "will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states".
This was the second time that the pope spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since U.S. President Donald Trump's decision earlier this month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Pope Francis called earlier for the "status quo" in Jerusalem to be respected to avoid new tensions in the Middle East.
The pope Monday also prayed that confrontation could be overcome on the Korean peninsula, saying he hoped "mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole."
In addition, Pope Francis used his message to speak about sufferings around the world, including conflicts in South Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine and Venezuela. He spoke of his recent trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh and called for adequate protection of the dignity of minority groups in the region.
The pope urged people to see Jesus in children who are suffering in conflicts around the world. "The winds of war are blowing in our world and an outdated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline,'' he said.
Christmas Eve Mass
During his Christmas Eve Mass on Sunday, attended by about 10,000 people inside and outside of St. Peter's Basilica, Francis strongly defended migrants, comparing them to Mary and Joseph finding no place to stay in Bethlehem, saying that faith demands that foreigners be embraced and calling for a "new social imagination."
The pope urged the world's more than 1.2 billion Catholics not to ignore the plight of migrants who are "driven from their land" because of leaders willingness to shed "innocent blood".
Source: Voice of America