"No to destruction, Yes to peace, Yes to the people of Aleppo and Syria", is the appeal that Pope Francis launched today.
At the end of
the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, the pontiff confided
that "Every day I am close, especially in prayer, to the people of
The pope's appeal comes amid Syrian Army and Russian air raids
on the last remnants of the rebels and jihadists who now only control a
few districts of the city, which has passed almost 90% under the
control of the loyalists.
Reports of Syrians who fled the jihadists areas rejoicing is mingled
with news of the disappearances of refugees in army hands and of
families being used as human shields by the jihadists. The pope's appeal
is a request for protection of the civilian population.
"We must not
forget - he said - that Aleppo is a city in which there are people:
Families, children, the elderly, sick people ... Unfortunately, we have
become accustomed to war, to destruction; but we must not forget Syria
is a country full of history , culture and faith,” – the Pope continued –
“We cannot accept that this is negated by war, which is a pile of
abuses and falsehoods. I make an appeal for the commitment of everyone,
because we face a choice of civilization: No to destruction, Yes to
peace, Yes to the people of Aleppo and Syria".
Immediately after the pontiff expressed his solidarity and prayers
"for the victims of some heinous terrorist attacks in different places."
Today there were attacks in Istanbul (Turkey), in Somalia, in Cairo
(Egypt), right next to the Coptic Cathedral of St. Mark. "I would like
to express - added the Pope - my particular closeness to Pope Tawadros
and families of the dead and wounded."
Earlier, the Pope paused to comment on the liturgy of the third
Sunday of Advent that invites us to rejoice at the coming of the Lord.
Francis, speaking off the cuff, said that "a Christian who is not joyful
... is missing something, or is not a Christian."
"It is not - he explained - a superficial or purely emotional joy,
and even the mundane or consumerism, but it is a most authentic joy,
which we are called to rediscover. It is a joy that touches the depths
of our being, while we await the One who has already come to bring
salvation to the world, the promised Messiah, who was born in Bethlehem
of the Virgin Mary. "
"The salvation brought by Jesus - he continued – takes hold of the
whole human being and regenerates us. God entered into history to free
us from the bondage of sin. He has pitched his tent among us to share
our lives, heal our pains, bind up our wounds and give us new life. Joy
is the fruit of this action of salvation and love of God".
"Christmas is near, the signs of its approach are evident on our
streets and in our homes. Here in the square the crib was placed beside
the tree. These external signs invite us to welcome the Lord who always
comes and knocks on our door. They invite us to recognize his steps
among those of the brothers who pass us by, especially the weak and
"Today - he concluded - we are invited to rejoice in the imminent
coming of our Redeemer; and we are called to share this joy with others,
giving comfort and hope to the poor, the sick, the lonely and unhappy
people. May the Virgin Mary, the "handmaid of the Lord", help us to hear
the voice of God in prayer and to serve him with compassion in our
brothers, ready to approach the Christmas appointment, preparing our
hearts to welcome Jesus".
After the Marian prayer and appeal to "the people of Aleppo", the
pontiff announced the beatification today, in Vientiane (Laos) of Mario
Borzaga, priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Paul Thoj
Xyooj, faithful lay catechist and fourteen comrades killed in hatred of
Pope Francis had recognized the martyrdom of Fr. Borzaga and Paul
Thoj in 2015. The two young martyrs - the first 28 years; the other 19 -
were killed in 1960 by communist guerrillas of the Pathet Lao.
According to tradition, the Pope then blessed the "Baby Jesus
figurines" that boys and girls of Rome brought with them to the streets.
"Dear young people - he said - when you pray in front of your crib with
your parents, ask the Child Jesus to help us all to love God and
neighbor. And remember to pray for me, as I remember you".