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Pope pleads for mutual understanding in Christmas message

Posted at 8:38 AM, Dec 25, 2018

Pope Francis pleaded for fraternity "among individuals of every nation and culture" in his annual Christmas message at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

"My wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity. Fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture. Fraternity among people with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another. Fraternity among persons of different religions," he said during the "Urbi et Orbi," or "to the city and the world" address Tuesday.

The pontiff added that he hoped that Israelis and Palestinians would find common ground and renew peace talks.

"May this Christmas help us to rediscover the bonds of fraternity linking us together as individuals and joining all peoples. May it enable Israelis and Palestinians to resume dialogue and undertake a journey of peace that can put an end to a conflict that for over seventy years has rent the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love," he said.

Pope Francis specifically prayed for Syria and Yemen, where long-standing conflicts have bred humanitarian disasters and devastated civilian life.

"May the international community work decisively for a political solution that can put aside divisions and partisan interests, so that the Syrian people, especially all those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere, can return to live in peace in their own country," he said.

As of April 2018, more than 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees , and some 6.6 million people are displaced internally.

Speaking on Yemen, Pope Francis said it was his hope "that the truce brokered by the international community may finally bring relief to all those children and people exhausted by war and famine."

In November, Save the Children said that an estimated 85,000 children under the age of 5 may have died from extreme hunger or disease since the war in Yemen escalated more than three years ago.

Yemen's war has pushed the nation to the brink of the world's worst famine in 100 years, leaving 14 million people at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations.

Last week, a ceasefire between Yemen's warring parties went into effect after a round of UN-sponsored talks.