Pope slams destruction of cultural heritage

Pope Francis delivers his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and to the world) blessing from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015.

Pope Francis delivers his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and to the world) blessing from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015.

Pope Francis on Friday used his Christmas message to denounce the destruction of cultural heritage, in a clear reference to ISIS.

He said “atrocities” committed by ISIS “do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples.”

ISIS has launched a campaign of destruction against buildings and monuments that fall outside its harsh interpretation of Islam, ranging from Christian churches to Muslim graves, as well as ancient treasures like the temples of Palmyra.

Conflicts in Syria and Libya

The Pope also offered his full support for U.N. efforts to end the conflicts in Syria and Libya in his Christmas message.

“We pray… that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people,” he said.

“It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country.”

The U.N. Security Council last week unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing a proposed peace plan to bring the Syrian regime and opposition together for talks in January.

The plan followed nearly two months of strenuous efforts among top diplomats from 17 countries, including regime backers Russia and Iran.

Syria’s regime said Thursday it was ready to take part in new talks in Geneva aimed at ending the war, though it appeared to make its participation conditional on which opposition groups attend.

On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council gave its backing to the new national unity government in embattled Libya, a move it hopes will help stem mass migration to Europe and reverse gains made by militants from ISIS.

The 15-nation council gave its support to the deal signed last week in the Moroccan town of Skhirat between representatives of strife-torn Libya’s two competing regimes.

‘Repay’ those who shelter migrants

Pope Francis called for solidarity with migrants while praising those who shelter them.

“May God repay all those, both individuals and states, who generously work to provide assistance and welcome to the numerous migrants and refugees,” Francis said after a year that saw more than one million migrants reach Europe.

He called for “encouragement… to all those fleeing extreme poverty or war, travelling all too often in inhumane conditions and not infrequently at the risk of their lives.”

Francis praised those who are helping migrants “to build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them.”


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