Christmas was celebrated all around the world on Wednesday, with Pope Francis appealing for peace in many of the world's hotspots, calling for peace in the Palestinian territories, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Venezuela, Ukraine and several African countries.
"May Christ bring his light to the many children suffering from war and conflicts in the Middle East and in various countries of the world," Francis said in his traditional Christmas message at the Vatican.
Francis, who has been scorned by populist politicians because of his defense of refugees and migrants, dedicated a section of his address to their plight.
“It is injustice that makes them cross deserts and seas that become cemeteries. It is injustice that forces them to endure unspeakable forms of abuse, enslavement of every kind and torture in inhumane detention camps,” Francis said.
“It is injustice that turns them away from places where they might have hope for a dignified life, but instead find themselves before walls of indifference,” he said.
Francis said that while there were many huge problems in the world, people did not have to look far to correct injustices. They could make a difference in their own communities as a start to healing all the “suffering members of our human family”.
And in an extraordinary message, Francis along with two other religious leaders urged the rival leaders of South Sudan to maintain a pledge to form a coalition government early next year. A peace deal to end a five-year civil war that killed close to 400,000 people was signed last year, but a November deadline to form a coalition government was extended to February as key aspects of the peace deal still need to be resolved.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania sent their "warmest greetings" to Christmas revelers around the world.
"While the challenges that face our country are great, the bonds that unite us as Americans are much stronger," the message read. "Together, we must strive to foster a culture of deeper understanding and respect."
In the biblical town of Bethlehem on Tuesday, a few hundred worshippers gathered in the church on the site of Jesus's birth for midnight mass, attended by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.
This year, celebrations were bolstered by the return of a wooden relic believed to be from Jesus's manger.
Sent as a gift to Pope Theodore I in 640, the piece had been in Europe for more than 1,300 years before being returned last month.