Updated: December 25, 2013 05:29 PM GMT
Picture: AFP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano
Celebrating the first Christmas since his election, Pope Francis preached the goodness and tenderness of God, and prayed that men and women around the world would allow God's grace to transform them into peacemakers.
"Let us allow our hearts to be touched, let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God; we need his caress," the pope said Dec. 25, standing on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and addressing an estimated 70,000 people in the square below.
"God is peace," the pope said. "Let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God's goodness."
"My hope is that everyone will feel God's closeness, live in his presence, love him and adore him," Pope Francis said before delivering his Christmas blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world).
Instead of reading Christmas greetings in more than 50 languages -- from Chinese to Swahili -- as his predecessors had done, Pope Francis spoke only in Italian.
As is traditional, his Christmas address included prayers and pleas for peace in war-torn and tense countries around the world, including Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Israel and Palestine and Iraq, where a car bomb exploded outside a church a few hours earlier, killing at least a dozen people.
Looking at the Christ child, "our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars," he said. Offering a prayer, he asked God to "look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become soldiers."
"Wars shatter and hurt so many lives," he said.
Source:Catholic News Service