Pope Francis delivers Christmas Day blessing in Saint Peter's Square at The Vatican on Saturday. The blessing "to the city and the world" (Urbi et Orbi) is the most solemn blessing in the Catholic church and normally given by the pontiff only on Easter and Christmas. Photo by Claudio Peri/EPA-EFE
Dec. 25 (UPI) -- Pope Francis urged world leaders to be more open to dialogue to heal the world's many "conflicts, crises, and disagreements" during his annual Christmas address Saturday at the Vatican.
Once again speaking outdoors from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica after last year's speech was moved indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Francis said in his Urbi et Orbi address the world needs dialogue to solve multiple ongoing crises, especially during a pandemic that has intensified physical and spiritual isolation.
"Sisters and brothers, what would our world be like without the patient dialogue of the many generous persons who keep families and communities together?" he said. "In this time of pandemic, we have come to realize this more and more.
"Our capacity for social relationships is sorely tried; there is a growing tendency to withdraw, to do it all by ourselves, to stop making an effort to encounter others and do things together."
Even among nations, the Pope added, "there is the risk of avoiding dialogue, the risk that this complex crisis will lead to taking shortcuts rather than setting out on the longer paths of dialogue. Yet only those paths can lead to the resolution of conflicts and to lasting benefits for all."
Several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square on Saturday to hear the address despite a steady rain.
The pontiff warned that disputes have become so common that the world is at risk becoming desensitized to the human suffering they cause.
"Indeed, even as the message of the birth of the Savior, the source of true peace, resounds in our hearts and in the whole world, we continue to witness a great number of conflicts, crises and disagreements," he said. "These never seem to end; by now we hardly even notice them.
"We have become so used to them that immense tragedies are now being passed over in silence; we risk not hearing the cry of pain and distress of so many of our brothers and sisters."
He specifically urged worshipers to remember the people of Syria, "who for more than a decade have experienced a war that has resulted in many victims and an untold number of displaced persons," as well as Iraq, "which still struggles to recover from a lengthy conflict."
Francis also cited ongoing civil war in Yemen, continuing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians "that drag on without a resolution" and an "unprecedented crisis" in Lebanon.
Despite the gloom, there is yet "a sign of hope" in the birth of baby Jesus, he declared.
"In the cold of the night, he stretches out his tiny arms towards us: he is in need of everything, yet he comes to give us everything," he said.
"Let us ask him for the strength to be open to dialogue. On this festive day, let us implore him to stir up in the hearts of everyone a yearning for reconciliation and fraternity."
U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and first lady Jill Biden pet their dog, Commander, while virtually meeting with United States military service members on Christmas Day, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, DC, on December 25, 2021. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo