Christian leaders have delivered their Christmas messages, with the pope calling on nations to share Covid-19 vaccines and the archbishop of Canterbury saying that despite a testing year, “darkness has still not overcome the light”.
Pope Francis delivered his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message virtually from a lectern inside the Vatican instead of the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica before tens of thousands of people.
The pandemic and its social and economic effects dominated the message, in which Francis called for global unity and help for nations suffering from conflicts and humanitarian crises.
“At this moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and grave economic and social imbalances only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, it is all the more important for us to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters,” he said.
Above all, Christmas was a time to help others because Jesus himself was born a poor outcast, Francis said on Thursday night at his Christmas Eve mass, which started two hours early so the few participants could get home in time for a 10pm curfew.
In his sermon for the Christmas Day eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral, Justin Welby said: “2020 has been for so many the darkness of Covid, of economic crisis, of climate emergency, evils of racism, of war, genocide and persecution. For billions around the world 2020 has been a year walking through the valley of the shadow of death.”
He told believers that the coming of Christ had shown God defeating darkness, adding that in the following millennia, it had still not “overcome the light”. He said: “Empires have come and gone, tyrants have risen and fallen. Economies have emerged and collapsed. Science has offered us obliteration and solutions. Diseases have swept the planet or been eliminated. Wars have threatened human destruction and good people united for peace. Treaties are made and broken.
“But the defining event of human history is the coming of the light. As much as we may currently be tempted to imagine this virus as the pivot of our lives – ‘Before Covid and After Covid’ – the pivot for every life, for human history is in fact the coming of the light of Christ.”
Francis also called for peace and reconciliation in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Sudan, Nigeria, Cameroon and Iraq, which he is due to visit in early March. He also asked worshippers to comfort those suffering from humanitarian crises or natural disasters in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, the Philippines and Vietnam.