In his speech on Christmas Day, Pope Francis said he hopes for a better world, including successful Middle East negotiations in the land of Jesus' birth, peace for Syria and several war-torn African countries, and dignity for refugees fleeing misery and conflict.
Francis spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to some 70,000 cheering tourists, pilgrims and Romans in the square below. He said he was joining all those hoping "for a better world."
Among places ravaged by conflict, Francis singled out Syria, which saw its third Christmas during civil war, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Iraq.
"True peace is not a balancing of opposing forces. It's not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions," the pope said in his first Christmas message since being elected pontiff in March. "Peace calls for daily commitment," Francis said, reading the pages of his speech which were ruffled by a chilly wind.
With a reference to attacks on Christians in Africa and parts of the Middle East, Francis prayed that God "protect all who are persecuted in your name."
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