Pope Francis on Wednesday used his first Christmas message to call for peace in the world's strife-torn places, acceptance for migrants and assistance for victims of natural disasters.
The pope began by telling the thousands of people who gathered in St. Peter's Square for his Urbi et Orbi message - Latin for "To the City and to the World" - "Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the whole world, Greetings and Happy Christmas!"
Francis, who was elected the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, reminded his audience that "wars shatter and hurt so many lives" before mentioning numerous places affected by conflicts.
"True peace - we know this well - is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely 'façade' which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, but making peace is an art, starting from God's gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ," the pope said.
Francis told the approximately 70,000 people, according to Vatican estimates, gathered in St. Peter's Square that at Christmas "our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, to battered women, to the sick."
The pope prayed for the people in some of the world's strife-torn nations, starting with Syria.
"Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance. Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid," Pope Francis said.
The pope also prayed for peace in the Central African Republic, Nigeria, the Holy Land, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Pope Francis then prayed for migrants, asking that those "in search of a dignified life may find acceptance and assistance."
The pope also prayed for victims of natural disasters.
"Lord of heaven and earth, look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity. Help and protect all the victims of natural disasters, especially the beloved people of the Philippines, gravely affected by the recent typhoon," Francis said.
The pope pronounced the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing after delivering his message. EFE