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As customary on Christmas Day, Pope Francis appeared at the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica overlooking the square to impart his “Urbi et Orbi” message and blessing to the city and to the world, a tradition he had to make a break from last year due to the pandemic.
Addressing those gathered holding their umbrellas at the Vatican on this rainy and wintry day and the millions watching him live on television, Pope Francis said the need for patient dialogue at this time of pandemic is even more necessary in the world.
The Pope said that “our capacity for social relationships is sorely tried; there is a growing tendency to withdraw, to do it all by ourselves, to stop making an effort to encounter others and do things together”.
He turned his thoughts to the international level where “we continue to witness a great number of conflicts, crises and disagreements”. These, he added, never seem to end and we hardly notice them.
We have become so used to them, Pope Francis said, that immense tragedies are now being passed over in silence: we risk not hearing the cry of pain and distress of so many of our brothers and sisters.
Francis said the risk is that of avoiding dialogue, and that the complex crisis of the world pandemic will lead to taking of shortcuts rather than setting out on the longer paths of dialogue, which, he stressed, are the way to the resolution of conflicts and lasting benefits for all
Among the nations that the Pope singled out were Syria, where for more than a decade the war has resulted in many victims and an untold number of displaced people, Iraq, still struggling to recover from a lengthy conflict, and Yemen.
“Let us listen to the cry of children arising from Yemen”, Pope Francis said, “where an enormous tragedy, overlooked by everyone, has silently gone on for years, causing deaths every day.”
Pope Francis mentioned other conflict areas in the world including the Middle East where the continuing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians drag on without a resolution. He also spoke of the Afghan people, tested by more than 40 years of conflict and the people of Myanmar, where intolerance and violence have targeted Christian communities.
The Pope did not forget the African continent, mentioning Ethiopia, the Sahel region and Sudan. He prayed for “the peoples of the countries of North Africa, tormented by divisions, unemployment and economic inequality.”
At this time of pandemic, Pope Francis also reminded the world and asked for prayers for the victims of violence against women, for young children and adolescents suffering from bullying and abuse, and for the elderly. He prayed that the current health crisis be overcome and that the necessary health care and vaccines in particular be provided to those who need them most.