today from the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis
addressed the following Christmas Message to a crowd of approximately
40,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!
Today the Church once again experiences
the wonder of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the shepherds of
Bethlehem, as they contemplate the newborn Child laid in a manger:
Jesus, the Saviour.
On this day full of light, the prophetic
proclamation resounds: “For to us a child is born, To us a son is
given. And the government will be upon his shoulder; and his name will
be called ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.’” (Is
9:6) The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not
the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of
love. It is the power which created the heavens and the earth, which
gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals; it is the
force which attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single
existence; it is the power which gives new birth, pardons faults,
reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of
God. This power of love led Jesus Christ to strip himself of his glory
and become man; it led him to give his life on the cross and to rise
from the dead. It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our
world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace.
For this reason, the birth of Jesus was
accompanied by the angels’ song as they proclaimed: “Glory to God in the
highest, And on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk
this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples,
especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger
than the yearning for peace. Peace to men and women in the war-torn
land of Syria, where far too much blood has been spilled. Above all in
the city of Aleppo, site of the most awful battles in recent weeks, it
is most urgent that assistance and support be guaranteed to the
exhausted civil populace, with respect for humanitarian law. It is time
for weapons to be still forever, and the international community to
actively seek a negotiated solution, so that civil coexistence can be
restored in the country. Peace to women and men of the beloved Holy
Land, the land chosen and favoured by God. May Israelis and Palestinians
have the courage and the determination to write a new page of history,
where hate and revenge give way to the will
to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony. May
Iraq, Libya and Yemen – where their peoples suffer war and the brutality
of terrorism – be able once again to find unity and concord. Peace to
the men and women in various parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria,
where fundamentalist terrorism exploits even children in order to
perpetrate horror and death. Peace in South Sudan and the Democratic
Republic of the Congo, so that divisions may be healed and all people of
good will may strive to undertake the path of development and sharing,
preferring the culture of dialogue to the mindset of conflict.
Peace to women and men who to this day
suffer the consequences of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, where there
is urgent need for a common desire to bring relief to the civil
population and to put into practice the commitments which have been
We implore harmony for the dear people of
Colombia, which seeks to embark on a new and courageous path of dialogue
and reconciliation. May such courage also motivate the beloved country
of Venezuela to undertake the necessary steps to put an end to current
tensions, and build together a future of hope for the whole population.
Peace to all who, in different areas, are
enduring sufferings due to constant dangers and persistent injustice.
May Myanmar consolidate its efforts to promote peaceful coexistence and,
with the assistance of the international community, provide necessary
protection and humanitarian assistance to all those who gravely and
urgently need it. May the Korean peninsula see the tensions it is
experiencing overcome in a renewed spirit of cooperation.
Peace to those who have lost a person dear
to them as a result of brutal acts of terrorism, and to those who have
sown fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities.
Peace – not merely the word, but a real
and concrete peace – to our abandoned and excluded brothers and sisters,
to those who suffer hunger and to all the victims of violence. Peace to
exiles, migrants and refugees, to all those who in our day are subject
to human trafficking. Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the
economic ambitions of the few, because of the sheer greed and the
idolatry of money, which leads to slavery. Peace to those affected by
social and economic unrest, and to those who endure the consequences of
earthquakes or other natural catastrophes.
Peace to the children, on this special day
on which God became a child, above all those deprived of the joys of
childhood because of hunger, wars or the selfishness of adults.
Peace on earth to men and women of
goodwill, who work quietly and patiently each day, in their families and
in society, to build a more humane and just world, sustained by the
conviction that only with peace is there the possibility of a more
prosperous future for all.
Dear brothers and sisters,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”: he is the “Prince of peace”. Let us welcome him!
[after the Blessing]
To you, dear brothers and sisters, who
have gathered in this Square from every part of the world, and to those
in various countries who are linked to us by radio, television and other
means of communication, I offer my greeting.
On this day of joy, we are all called to
contemplate the Child Jesus, who gives hope once again to every person
on the face of the earth. By his grace, let us with our voices and our
actions give witness to solidarity and peace. Merry Christmas to all!
is a Vatican translation of the text of the homily Pope Francis gave
this evening when he celebrated Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s
* * *
The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men” (Tit 2:11).
The words of the Apostle Paul reveal the mystery of this holy night:
the grace of God has appeared, his gift is free; in the Child given unto
us the love of God is made visible.
It is a night of glory, that glory proclaimed by the angels in Bethlehem and also by us today all over the world. It is a night of joy, because from this day forth, and for all times, the infinite and eternal God is God with us:
he is not far off, we need not search for him in the heavens or in
mystical notions; he is close, he is been made man and will never
distance himself from our humanity, which he has made his own. It is a night of light:
that light, prophesied by Isaiah (cf. 9:1), which would illumine those
who walk in darkness, has appeared and enveloped the shepherds of
Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2:9).
The shepherds simply discover that “unto us a child is born” (Is 9:5) and they understand that all this glory, all this joy, all this light converges to one single point, that sign which the angel indicated to them: “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). This is the enduring sign
to find Jesus. Not just then, but also today. If we want to celebrate
Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the fragile
simplicity of a small newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender
affection of the swaddling clothes. God is there.
With this sign the Gospel reveals a
paradox: it speaks of the emperor, the governor, the mighty of those
times, but God does not make himself present there; he does not appear
in the grand hall of a royal palace, but in the poverty of a stable; not
in pomp and show, but in the simplicity of life; not in power, but in a
smallness which surprises. In order to discover him, we need to go
there, where he is: we need to bow down, humble ourselves, make
ourselves small. The Child who is born challenges us: he calls us to
leave behind fleeting illusions and go to the essence, to renounce our
insatiable claims, to abandon our endless dissatisfaction and sadness
for something we will never have. It will help us to leave these things
behind in order to rediscover in the simplicity of the God-child, peace,
joy and the meaning of life.
Let us allow the Child in the manger to
challenge us, but let us also allow ourselves to be challenged by the
children of today’s world, who are not lying in a cot caressed with the
affection of a mother and father, but rather suffer the squalid “mangers
that devour dignity”: hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the
pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with
immigrants. 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
The mystery of Christmas, which is light and joy, questions and unsettles us, because it is at once both a mystery of hope and of sadness. It bears within itself the taste of sadness,
inasmuch as love is not received, and life discarded. This happened to
Joseph and Mary, who found the doors closed, and placed Jesus in a
manger, “because there was no place for them in the inn” (v. 7). Jesus
was born rejected by some and regarded by many others with indifference.
Today also the same indifference can exist, when Christmas becomes a
feast where the protagonists are ourselves, rather than Jesus; when the
lights of commerce cast the light of God into the shadows; when we are
concerned for gifts but cold towards those who are marginalized.
Yet Christmas has essentially a flavour of hope
because, notwithstanding the darker aspects of our lives, God’s light
shines out. His gentle light does not make us fear; God who is in love
with us, draws us to himself with his tenderness, born poor and fragile
among us, as one of us. He is born in Bethlehem, which means “house of
bread”. In this way he seems to tell us that he is born as bread for us;
he enters life to give us his life; he comes into our world to give us
his love. He does not come to devour or to command but to nourish and to
serve. Thus there is a direct thread joining the manger and the cross,
where Jesus will become bread that is broken: it is the direct thread of love which is given and which saves us, which brings light to our lives, and peace to our hearts.
The shepherds grasped this in that night.
They were among the marginalized of those times. But no one is
marginalized in the sight of God and it was precisely they who were
invited to the Nativity. Those who felt sure of themselves,
self-sufficient, were at home with their possessions; the shepherds
instead “went with haste” (cf. Lk
2:16). Let us allow ourselves also to be challenged and convened tonight
by Jesus. Let us go to him with trust, from that area in us we feel to
be marginalized, from our own limitations. Let us touch the tenderness
which saves. Let us draw close to God who draws close to us, let us
pause to look upon the crib, and imagine the birth of Jesus: light,
peace, utmost poverty, and rejection. Let us enter into the real
Nativity with the shepherds, taking to Jesus all that we are, our
alienation, our unhealed wounds. Then, in Jesus we will enjoy the
flavour of the true spirit of Christmas: the beauty of being loved by
God. With Mary and Joseph we pause before the manger, before Jesus who
is born as bread for my life. Contemplating his humble and infinite
love, let us say to him: thank you, thank you because you have done all
this for me.