While speaking to about 70,000 people from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday, Francis also called for an end to the violence in Syria and in parts of Africa.
“True peace is not a balance of opposing forces,” Francis said. “It is not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment.”
It is rare for a Catholic leader to make an appeal to atheists, let alone during the annual Christmas Day “Urbi et Orbi.”
“I invite even nonbelievers to desire peace,” Francis said. “Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace.”
Francis said that the violence in Central African Republic is “often forgotten and overlooked” and also called for an end to the fighting in Syria as well as a “favorable outcome” to peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis.
In addition to his prayers for humanity, Francis also said that it is vital to protect the environment, which he said was “frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity.”
Many of the pope's remarks were met with cheers and applause.