Pope calls for peace in New Year message

Pope Francis waves as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican February 18, 2015. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito (VATICAN - Tags: RELIGION)

Pope Francis delivered a New Year’s blessing of “peace and hope” for a World Day of Peace and asked especially on Friday for prayers for the people of Yemen.

“The painful events of the past year, especially the pandemic, taught us how to take an interest in others’ problems and share their concerns,” Francis said. “This attitude represents that path that leads to peace.”

The traditional New Year’s Angelus prayer, delivered at noon, was not given from the balcony overlooking the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square, to reduce crowds during Italy’s restricted health measures for the coronavirus disease 2019.

Instead, Francis broadcasted from his papal library in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. Francis was absent from New Year’s Eve mass or vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday because of a flare up of back pain, the Vatican said.

On Friday, Francis urged the faithful to place themselves under the “maternal and loving gaze” of Jesus’ mother Mary, who is venerated as the “Mother of God” during the ancient prayer.

Mary’s encouragement and motherly support, with the same maternal love that she had for Jesus himself, gives us time “to be spent towards our human and spiritual growth,” the pontiff said.

Mary’s encouragement would spur a time when “hatred and division are resolved” leading to a “time to build and not destroy” and to “take care of one another and of creation,” he added.

The theme for the World Day of Peace, a Catholic feast day celebrated Jan. 1, is “a culture of care as a path to peace,” the pope said.

This was particularly important during the pandemic when the world had to learn to care for others and foster a society founded on “fraternal relationships,” he added. “We are called to make peace happen every day and in every place we live.”

The pope also called for special prayers for the people of Yemen, and called for the release of a Catholic bishop kidnapped in Nigeria.

“Brothers and sisters,” Francis said, “let us think of the children of Yemen! Without education, medicine and hungry.” Francis called for solutions to end violence in Yemen, “which is causing numerous innocent victims. … Let us pray together for Yemen.”

Francis also called for the safe return of Nigerian Auxiliary Bishop Moses Chikwe, of the Archdiocese of Owerri, and his driver, who were kidnapped on Sunday by gunmen shortly after another priest, Fr. Valentine Oluchukwu Ezeagu, was released from an earlier kidnapping.

“We ask the Lord that they and all those who are victims of similar acts in Nigeria may return unharmed to freedom and that that dear country may regain security, concord and peace,” Francis said. CURRENTPH

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