From the central balcony of the Vatican Basilica, Pope Francis imparted the blessing “Urbi et Orbi” (from the city to the world) as every December 25 on the occasion of the birth of Christ. On a sunny day and before thousands of people who gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome to hear his message, Bergoglio took advantage, as is tradition, to review the world conflicts and remember the people who suffer. To all of them he wanted to send a message of hope: “Although there is darkness in human hearts, in personal, family and social relationships or in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, the greater is the light of Christ.”
In the radiography he made of the world at war, Francisco began in the Middle East, a region plagued not only by the long Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but also, since the last decade, by instability in Iraq after the US invasion and civil war in Syria, countries hard hit by the recently defeated Daesh. The Pope wished that Christ “be light” for the children who suffer in their flesh these situations, that “remove consciences to men of good will” and “inspire” the rulers to “guarantee the peaceful coexistence” of these peoples. At this point, he made a special mention to Syria, “which has not yet seen the end of the hostilities that have torn the country apart in this decade”; to Lebanon, with the intention that it be again an example of “freedom and harmonious coexistence for all”; to Iraq, “crossed by social tensions,” and to Yemen, “tested by a serious humanitarian crisis.”
Surely, Franscisco began his “Urbi et Orbi” remembering the Middle East for being the original place of Jesus: “May the Lord be a light to the Holy Land where He was born and where he continues to wait for so many who, even in fatigue, but without despair, they await days of peace, security and prosperity ».
In a blessing very similar to that of last year, he also stopped especially to remember the situation in Latin America: «That the little Child of Bethlehem is hope for the entire American continent, where various nations are going through a period of social upheaval and policies ». As he did in 2018, he mentioned in his speech to Venezuela, pointing out that he has been suffering from «political and social tensions» for a long time. But the first Latin pope in the history of the Church did not want to make more concretions. He mentioned in a special way the country that governs Nicolás Maduro, but he overlooked the other revolts unleashed during this year on the continent, product, according to some, analysts of the emergence of a “Latin American Spring.” The protests in Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile would enter this group. In the latter country alone, about twenty people have been killed and more than 2,000 injured.
The «martyred» Africa
Finally, the Pope asked for African countries where social and political situations continue to be lived that often force people to emigrate, depriving them of a house and a family. “Let there be peace for the population living in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, martyred by persistent conflicts,” Francisco said, while he wanted comfort “for those who are persecuted because of their faith, especially missionaries and the kidnapped faithful, and for those who fall victim to attacks by extremist groups, especially in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria ». In Spain, in fact, we have close testimonies that account for the violence suffered by Christians in many countries in Africa. Because only in this 2019 three Spanish religious have died serving God in conflict zones: it is the missionaries Fernando Hernández, killed in Burkina Faso; Antonio César Fernández, in Togo; and Inés Nieves Sancho, in the Central African Republic.
Francisco left his favorite group for the end of his blessing, the one he is most concerned about: that of refugees and migrants. He has shown it on numerous occasions: from his trip to Lesbos, in which he warned of a humanitarian catastrophe comparable to World War II, until his recent move to place a gigantic monument representing the migration drama in the Vatican. So far this year, more than a thousand people drowned at the gates of Europe have died. “God bring this year defense and support for those who, because of injustices, must emigrate with the hope of a safe life,” he entrusted Christ. The injustice, the Pope recalled yesterday, is the one that “forces them to cross deserts and seas, transformed into cemeteries” and the one that “forces them to suffer unspeakable abuses, slavery of all kinds and torture in inhuman detention camps. Injustice denies them places where they could hope for a dignified life and makes them find walls of indifference, ”he concluded.
For Europe and the entire West to take action in this drama, the Holy Father expressed his hope that “Emmanuel will soften our hearts, often hardened and selfish.”