0301 GMT July 16, 2019
Francis delivered the traditional papal “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message to tens of thousands of people in a sunny St. Peter’s Square from the same Basilica balcony where he first appeared as pontiff shortly after his election on March 13, 2013, Reuters reported.
Security has been tight around the Vatican for the Christmas season, with military jeeps stationed at key access routes and tourists undergoing metal detector and bag searches.
Last week police in southern Italy arrested a Somali man suspected of having been a member of Daesh and who had threatened to bomb churches in Italy, including St. Peter’s.
In his address, in what appeared to be a reference to the shrill political climate in a number of countries, Francis called for “fraternity among people with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another”.
Francis, the first pope from Latin America, alluded to polarization over migration, saying God wanted “love, acceptance, respect for this poor humanity of ours, which we all share in a great variety of races, languages, and cultures”.
“Our differences, then, are not a detriment or a danger; they are a source of richness,” he said.
He urged the international community to work for a political solution in Syria and said he hoped a truce brokered in Yemen’s war could bring relief to a population exhausted by violence and famine.
The Argentinian-born pope also called for social harmony in Nicaragua and Venezuela, both racked by internal political conflicts.
The millions of refugees or displaced people in Africa who are in need of humanitarian assistance and food security should not be forgotten, he said.
In Ukraine, he called for “a peace respectful of the rights of every nation”. Ukraine’s relations with Russia have been locked in a downwards spiral after Crimea’s reunification with Russia after a referendum in 2014 and Moscow’s alleged support for pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine.