Pope Francis has wished Christmas peace for people scarred by wars and those who lost loved ones to terrorism that he says is sowing "fear and death" in many cities and countries, reports the AP. Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica Sunday, Francis cited those suffering through the Syrian war, especially during the "most awful battles" in Aleppo. He pressed the international community for a negotiated solution. The pontiff emphasized the plight of children, notes the Journal, with a strong reference to abortion. "Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons," he said, urging Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ "authentically."
The pontiff urged Israelis and Palestinians to abandon hate and revenge. He also lamented that in Nigeria "fundamentalist terrorism exploits even children," a reference to child suicide-bombers. He decried conflicts and tensions in Africa, eastern Ukraine, Myanmar, the Korean peninsula, Colombia, and Venezuela. Tens of thousands of faithful entering St. Peter's Square endured long lines for security checks. Sunday marked Francis' fourth Christmas message as pope.