The 77-year-old Pope Francis is full of surprises since he became the new residing pontiff of the Catholic Church. In his first Christmas address from the balcony at the Vatican's St. Peter's Square he made a broad call to the entire world for global peace.
He focused first on Syria and Africa to end their violence and even urged atheists and people of all religions to join together for the cause of world peace. The fact that he addresses atheists is something that the Catholic Church has never done.
“I invite even nonbelievers to desire peace,” he said. “Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace.”
Pope Francis delivered the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" speech to more than 70,000 tourists, pilgrims and Romans giving Christmas greetings to the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and draw attention to issues that concern him, the universal desire for peace.
He asked for all to share in the song of Christmas angels, "for every man or woman ... who hopes for a better world, who cares for others," humbly.
And those places that are ravaged by conflict, Francis singled out Syria, which saw its third Christmas during civil war. He included South Sudan; the Central African Republic; Nigeria; and Iraq.
The pope also prayed - God "bless the land where you chose to come into the world and grant a favorable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians."
And spoke of his understanding of peace - "True peace is not a balancing of opposing forces. It's not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions," the pope said. "Peace calls for daily commitment," Francis said, reading the pages of his speech as they were ruffled by a chilly wind.
He added, "our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think, too, of the elderly, of battered women" and others.
Since Francis became pope, he has created a genuine excitement in the Catholic Church, as well as other religions, even the non-religious. His humble, nonjudgmental and modest motives are adored. His concerns about normally taboo issues like homosexuality, divorce and atheism have astonished and no doubt surprised many Catholics.
As he gave the Christmas greeting, he was wearing a simple plain white cassock, keeping with the unpretentious demeanor he has set for his papacy.
This pope is most undoubtedly becoming one of the most adored Catholic leaders of all time. People love him and his down to earth manner.
Image via Wikimedia Commons