TULSA - During his first "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas blessing, Pope Francis focused on his message of peace, and included those who don't even believe in a God.
He noted that people of many religions pray for peace, and then departed from the prepared text of his speech to urge atheists to join forces with those who believe.
"I invite even non-believers to desire peace. (Join us) with your desire, a desire that widens the heart. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace," he said, remarks which received a sustained positive reaction from the 70,000 people or so crowding the square outside St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
The Pontiff specifically mentioned several troubled areas of the world, including Sudan, Syria, Nigeria, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and of course he didn't neglect to mention the never-ending conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
"Wars shatter and hurt so many lives," Francis said, noting that the very young, the very old, and the sick are those who often pay the price for war.
"God is peace: let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world," he said.
"Urbi et Orbi" is Latin for "to the City and to the World," and is the title of a papal address and blessing offered on certain ceremonial occasions.