VATICAN CITY, In his Christmas message to the city and to the world, Pope Francis said his wish this year was for fraternity, among individuals of every nation and culture and expressed hope this would help bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians, in Syria and in Yemen.

My wish for a happy Christmas, is a wish for fraternity, the pope said addressing more than a million Catholics all over the world in his message from the central loggia of Saint Peter's Basilica. And he added, Fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture. Fraternity among people with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another. Fraternity among persons of different religions.

Pope Francis said, The Son of God tells us that salvation comes through love, acceptance, respect for this poor humanity of ours, which we all share in a great variety of races, languages, and cultures. Yet all of us are brothers and sisters in humanity!

Our differences, then, the pope told the faithful, are not a detriment or a danger; they are a source of richness. As when an artist is about to make a mosaic: it is better to have tiles of many colors available, rather than just a few!

The pope then turned his thoughts to conflict areas in the world, first among all the Middle East. He expressed the hope that bonds of fraternity may enable Israelis and Palestinians to resume dialogue and undertake a journey of peace that can put an end to an over 70 year conflict.

Francis said he hoped the beleaguered country of Syria would once again find fraternity after these long years of war. He urged the international community to work decisively for a political solution that can put aside divisions and partisan interests, so that the Syrian people, especially all those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere, can return to live in peace in their own country.

The pope also had thoughts for Yemen and expressed the hope that the truce brokered by the international community may finally bring relief to all those children and people exhausted by war and famine.

With respect to the African continent, the pope's thoughts went to the millions of persons who are refugees or displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance and food security. He expressed a desire for the clash of arms to be silenced in order to allow a new dawn of fraternity to rise over the entire continent.

Monday night the pope celebrated Christmas mass in Saint Peter's Basilica which was attended by tens of thousands of people. In his homily, the pope said that in our day, for many people, life's meaning is found in possessing, in having an excess in material objects. He urged the faithful to focus on simplicity.

This week will be a very busy one for the 82-year-old pontiff. He will again address the faithful on Wednesday, hold a vespers ceremony on New Year's Eve and another mass on New Year's Day.

Source: Voice of America

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