Dec. 26, 2013
(CNN) — Pope Francis doesn’t want a commonly quoted Bible verse chanted as empty words on Christmas Day — the one about peace on Earth.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors,” heavenly hosts proclaimed when Christ was born, according to the Vatican translation.
The pontiff told tens of thousands of people gathered in front of the Vatican on Wednesday where he wants that peace to happen — in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Holy Land.
False pretenses won’t do.
“True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely ‘facade’ which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment,” Francis said in his Christmas Urbi et Orbi message.
The Urbi et Orbi address is customarily political and global, as its name indicates. It is Latin and means “to the city (of Rome) and to the world.” Popes give the address and blessing on special occasions such as Easter and Christmas.
Vatican TV estimated that about 150,000 attended the blessing in St. Peter’s Square, which marked Francis’ first Christmas celebration as pope.
He asked Jesus to inspire peace in warring factions around the world.
“Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue.”
He also continued his criticism of money-driven evils.
“Lord of heaven and earth,” he prayed, “look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity.”
Pray for peace
Francis asked Christians to pray for an end to the violence and suffering in Syria and for humanitarian aid to get through to its people. He prayed for people dying of hunger, thirst and violence in the Central African Republic to find an end to war and poverty.
He also addressed a new armed conflict.
“Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state,” he prayed.
He asked God to have mercy on civilians killed in Nigeria and Iraq and prayed that Israelis and Palestinians find peace together in “the land where you chose to come into the world.”