Dec. 25 (UPI) -- Pope Francis prayed for the softening of "stony and self-centered hearts" to help end endemic human suffering in his annual Christmas address, delivered Wednesday at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.
The 83-year-old pontiff used the traditional speech, known as "Urbi et Orbi," or "to the city and the world," to cite humanitarian crises around world and urge God "to soften our often stony and self-centered hearts, and make them channels of his love."
"May he bring his smile, through our poor faces, to all the children of the world: to those who are abandoned and those who suffer violence."
There is darkness, Francis said, in "personal, family and social relationships, but the light of Christ is greater. There is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, yet greater still is the light of Christ."
The pontiff focused on the plights of suffering people around the world, focusing especially on the Middle East and "the beloved Syrian people, who still see no end to the hostilities that have rent their country over the last decade."
Francis prayed for peace and an end to human suffering in Lebanon, the Holy Land, Yemen and Iraq in the Middle East, along with Venezuela, Ukraine and several African nations, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.
The Pope on Christmas Day also joined with two British religious leaders to send Christmas greetings to the people and political leaders of South Sudan, where warring factions last year signed a peace deal to end a five-year civil war.
Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Presbyterian Church of Scotland leader Rev. John Chalmers congratulated sent the Sudanese people "best wishes for your peace and prosperity, and to assure you of our spiritual closeness as you strive for a swift implementation of the peace agreements."