The head of the Catholic Church denounces the growing polarization and prays for the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic in a Christmas speech.
Pope Francis used his Christmas message to denounce the growing polarization in personal and international relations, arguing that only dialogue can resolve conflicts ranging from family feuds to threats of war.
In his message “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) delivered this Saturday, Christmas Day, the head of the Catholic Church called on individuals and world leaders to talk to each other rather than to persist, a distancing he says has been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our capacity for social relations is severely tested; there is a growing tendency to withdraw, to do everything on our own, to stop making an effort to meet others and do things together, ”Francis said from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in a Wet and windy Rome.
“At the international level too, there is the risk of avoiding dialogue, the risk that this complex crisis will lead to taking shortcuts rather than embarking on longer channels of dialogue. Yet only these avenues can lead to conflict resolution and lasting benefits for all. “
Francois, who turned 85 last week, listed conflicts, tensions or crises in Syria, Yemen, Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Ukraine, Sudan, South Sudan and elsewhere.
“We continue to witness a great number of conflicts, crises and disagreements,” he said, speaking from the same balcony where he first appeared to the world as Pope after his election in March 2013.
“These never seem to end, now we barely notice them. We have become so used to it that immense tragedies are passed over in silence; we risk not hearing the cry of pain and distress from so many of our brothers and sisters, ”he said, addressing an unusually small crowd reduced by COVID-19 restrictions and the weather to just a few thousands.
Refugees, environment and COVID-19
Francis used the word “dialogue” 11 times in a speech of just over two pages when addressing people clustered under rain parkas and umbrellas.
He called on people not to be indifferent to the plight of refugees, migrants, internally displaced persons, political prisoners and women victims of violence, and urged leaders to protect the environment for future generations.
In his Christmas Eve Mass on Friday night in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis said that those indifferent to the poor offended God and urged everyone to “look beyond all lights and decorations” and remember the most needy.
Francis also prayed in particular for those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including women and children who have suffered increased abuse during the closures.
He prayed for “comfort and warmth” for the elderly who are alone, as well as for health workers who “dedicate themselves generously” to the care of the sick.
“Grant health to the infirm and inspire all men and women of good will to seek the best possible means to overcome the current health crisis and its effects,” said Francis.
For the second day in a row, Italy set a daily pandemic record on Friday with 50,599 new cases. Another 141 people have died, bringing the official death toll from coronaviruses in Italy to 136,386.
Globally, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than five million people since the start of the pandemic in late 2019.