By Ian Swanson
In his first Christmas Day address, Pope Francis called for peace in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Israel.
The new pope, named the man of the year by Time magazine, also made an immigration plea, asking that people pray this Christmas that migrants “in search of a dignified life may find acceptance and assistance.”
A poll released Tuesday by CNN said 90 percent of U.S. Catholics hold a favorable opinion of Francis, who has sought to emphasize help for the poor over condemning contraception, abortion and homosexuality, even as he has affirmed church teachings on those subjects.
In his address, Francis called for a sparing of the Syrian people from “further suffering,” and asked for prayer “to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid.”
In South Sudan, where a civil war has reportedly left thousands dead, Francis called for social harmony, and he called for a “favorable outcome” to peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Francis also spoke out against human trafficking and the use of children in war.
“Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realize the gravity of this crime against humanity. Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become soldiers,” he said.