Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pope ushers in Christmas with ‘unconditional love’



Pope ushers in Christmas with ‘unconditional love’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Pope Francis kisses a figurine of baby Jesus during a mass on Christmas Eve on December 24, at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. AFP

Pope ushers in Christmas with ‘unconditional love’

Pope Francis ushered in Christmas on Wednesday for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics with a message of unconditional love, saying “God continues to love us all, even the worst of us”.

“You may have mistaken ideas, you may have made a complete mess of things, but the Lord continues to love you,” the pontiff told crowds gathered at the Vatican for his Christmas Eve midnight mass.

The Argentinian also emphasized “unconditional” love, in a year that has seen the Pope move to combat silence surrounding paedophilia in the Roman Catholic church, which has been rocked by thousands of reports of sexual abuse by priests around the world and accusations of cover-ups by senior clergy.

Earlier this month, he removed a Pontifical secrecy rule, which critics said prevented priests and victims from reporting abuse, and in May passed a landmark measure to oblige those who know about sex abuse to report it to their superiors.

Francis will at noon on Wednesday give the traditional Christmas Day mass – his seventh – addressed to the world in front of St Peter’s Square.

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians and foreigners converged in the biblical town of Bethlehem, revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

A few hundred worshippers gathered in the church on the site of Jesus’s birth for midnight mass, attended by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. Hundreds more gathered outside, watching on screens in the crisp air.

But fewer Christians from the Gaza Strip were in attendance than in previous years, as Israel had granted permits to just around 300 of some 900 people who applied, said Wadie Abunassar, an adviser to church leaders in the Holy Land.

At midnight bells rang out throughout the town, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the most senior Roman Catholic official in the Middle East, led hymns and said prayers.

“At Christmas, all the world looks to us, to Bethlehem,” he said.

“Special greetings to our brothers and sisters in Gaza, with whom I celebrated Christmas two days ago,” he added.

Pizzaballa, who had to cross Israel’s separation barrier to get from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, said after his arrival that it was a difficult time but there was a reason for hope.

“We see in this period the weakness of politics, enormous economic problems, unemployment, problems in families,” he said.

“On the other side, when I visit families, parishes, communities, I see a lot of commitment... for the future. Christmas is for us to celebrate the hope.”

Earlier on Christmas Eve, a few thousand people watched in the winter sun as Palestinian scouts paraded in front of a giant Christmas tree.

“The church is beautiful and it puts what we know in the Bible (in) place,” said Laneda, an American tourist visiting the site. “Everything is just very meaningful.”

French Catholics endured a sad moment as Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris was unable to hold Christmas Eve Mass for the first time since 1803 -- after a fire ravaged its structure in April.

In the Philippines, a majority Catholic country, typhoon Phanfone brought a wet and miserable Christmas Day to millions, many of them stranded at shuttered ports or evacuation centres.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration