Christmas message 2016: Pope Francis urges faithful to express compassion for abortion and war victims

Pope Francis' Christmas message this year urges Catholics all over the world to express compassion for the victims of abortion and war.

(REUTERS / Tony Gentile)Pope Francis holds a statue of baby Jesus during the Christmas night Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican December 24, 2016.

In his Christmas message, Pope Francis told tens of thousands of Catholics at Saint Peter's Square to celebrate the life of the newborn. He also urged the faithful to focus their attention on the needy and the children who have been affected by ongoing conflicts, Life News relays.

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"Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons," Pope Francis said.

"Today this message goes out to the ends of the Earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace," the pontiff added.

The pope previously told the Polish people that life must be "welcomed and protected" from the moment of conception up to natural death. He also told government authorities to take steps to help expectant mothers.

Pope Francis said it is the responsibility of the government, the Church and society to extend a helping hand to those who are in need and to respect and care for life. The aim of this is to make sure that children will be treated as a gift rather than a burden.

Last month, Pope Francis cemented a priest's authority to forgive women who had an abortion. Although he acknowledged that terminating pregnancy is a grave sin, God's mercy can cleanse the heart of a repentant person, The Guardian reports.

The move prompted criticisms from traditionalists who think Pope Francis has stepped beyond the boundaries of the issues of abortion, divorce and other sensitive topics. Still, it highlighted the pontiff's desire to make forgiveness the center of his papacy. He first gave priests temporary authority last year to absolve women who had an abortion, a grave sin that only bishops or specially appointed priests previously had the authority to forgive.

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