Pope Francis focused his second Christmas address on the "so many tears" being shed on Christianity's biggest holiday, blasting in particular the "brutal persecution" being suffered at the hands of the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. "I ask him, the savior of the world, to look upon our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict," he said in his annual "Urbi et Orbi" address. Reuters notes he later left his prepared speech to deride "contemporary Herods," with the blood of children on their hands; children who are " displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence." He did not elaborate, notes Reuters.
Of refugees, he said, "May Christmas bring them hope. May indifference be changed into the necessary humanitarian help to overcome the rigors of winter." Sky News notes that the pontiff put in a special phone call last night to Christian refugees at a camp in Ankawa, Iraq, telling them, "You are like Jesus on Christmas night. There was no room for him either." Francis has been plenty vocal this Christmas season, earlier this week hitting the Vatican for its "spiritual Alzheimer's." (Read more Pope Francis stories.)