Pope calls for peace in Mideast during traditional Christmas address

by Rachel Elbaum /  / Updated 
Image: Pope Francis delivers the Urbi et Orbi Christmas Day message
Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he delivers the traditional Urbi et Orbi Christmas Day message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, on Dec. 25, 2017.Angelo Carconi / EPA

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LONDON — Pope Francis called for a negotiated two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his annual Christmas message on Monday.

"Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders," Francis said during his traditional Urbi et Orbi message from St. Peter's Basilica.

The pope's comments came after President Donald Trump stoked regional tensions with his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

It was the second time that the pope has spoken out publicly about Jerusalem since Trump's decision on Dec. 6. On that day, Francis called for the city's "status quo" to be respected, lest new tensions in the Middle East further inflame world conflicts.

The Christmas message has become an occasion for popes to survey suffering in the world and press for solutions. Francis urged that "our hearts not be closed" as the inns of Bethlehem were to Mary and Joseph before Jesus' birth.

Related: Jerusalem violence puts damper on Christmas in Bethlehem

After offering his prayers for peace in the Middle East, the pope used the rest of his address to pray for children in areas of conflict around the world, noting that "the winds of war are blowing in our world and an outdated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline."

He went on to name conflicts around the world where children have been affected, first across the Middle East and then in the Korean peninsula, Africa, Venezuela and the Ukraine.

Image: Pope Francis waves to faithful during the Urbi et Orbi
Pope Francis waves during the Urbi et Orbi Christmas' day blessing from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Monday.L'Osservatore Romano via AP

He prayed that "confrontation may be overcome on the Korean peninsula and that mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole."

Many of the conflicts he mentioned in Monday's address were also included in his 2016 Christmas message.

Before a packed square full of faithful who gathered to hear his remarks, he also talked about his recent visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh, and called on the international community to protect minority groups in the region.

On Sunday he said he was praying for the Philippines after one of its islands was devastated by floods and landslides, killing roughly 200 people, and a separate shopping mall fire likely claimed about three dozen lives.

Earlier in the week he turned his focus closer to home, using a Christmas greeting to dress down Vatican officials, denouncing the "cancer" of cliques and the way bureaucrats can become "corrupted" by ambition and vanity.

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