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Pope calls for peace in Jerusalem in Christmas message

  • Published at 07:12 pm December 25th, 2017
Pope calls for peace in Jerusalem in Christmas message

Pope Francis called for "peace for Jerusalem" and "mutual trust" on the Korean peninsula as he highlighted the suffering of children in conflicts across the world in his Christmas address on Monday.

In the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" address in Saint Peter's Square, the pontiff spoke of "growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians," hoping 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."

"Let us pray that confrontation may be overcome on the Korean peninsula and that mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole," the pope said.

Pope also urging the world's 1.3 billion Catholics not to ignore migrants.

The pontiff's plea came as fresh tensions simmered in the West Bank following US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Trump's announcement on December 6 unleashed demonstrators and clashes, including in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank where Christians marked the birth of Jesus at a midnight mass.

"May the Lord also sustain the efforts of all those in the international community inspired by good will to help that afflicted land to find, despite grave obstacles the harmony, justice and security that it has long awaited," the pope said.

The pontiff also mentioned other global flashpoints such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan and Venezuela, after stressing that the "winds of war are blowing in our world."

"Let us pray that confrontation may be overcome on the Korean peninsula and that mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole," the 81-year-old said.

Fewer tourists in Bethlehem

Earlier, celebrating midnight mass in the ancient town, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, used his homily to lambast the wars that "the Herods of today fight every day to become greater, to occupy more space."

Criticising Trump's announcement, Pizzaballa insisted "Jerusalem is a city of peace, there is not peace if someone is excluded. Jerusalem should include, not exclude," stressing the principle that Jerusalem is a city for both peoples and the three Abrahamic faiths.

Hundreds had gathered in the cold on Bethlehem's Manger Square to watch the annual scout parade towards the Church of the Nativity, built over the spot where tradition says Mary gave birth to Jesus.

But the square was noticeably quieter following the violence between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army in the past weeks.

First Xmas in Homs in years

Christmas decorations have meanwhile become more visible in Christian areas of Syria's capital Damascus this year.

In the central Syrian city of Homs, Christians will celebrate Christmas with great fanfare for the first time in years after the end of battles between regime and rebel forces - with processions, shows for children and even decorations among the ruins.

In Iraq too, this year marks a positive turning point for the Christian community in the northern city of Mosul.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II was meanwhile due to pay tribute to the cities of London and Manchester which suffered terror attacks this year.

"This Christmas, I think of London and Manchester, whose powerful identities shone through over the past 12 months in the face of appalling attacks," the 91-year-old monarch was to say in the pre-recorded televised message.