As the Catholic Church celebrated World Peace Day on 1st January, Pope Francis offered prayers for the people of war-torn Yemen, especially the nation’s children left without education and often without food by years of civil war.
Reciting the Angelus from the library of the Apostolic Palace, the pope made no mention of the sciatica pain that had forced him to miss an evening prayer service on 31st December and the morning Mass on 1st January for the feast of Mary, Mother of God.
With Italy on a severe lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic over the holidays and with rain falling on a mostly empty St Peter’s Square, the pope livestreamed his Angelus address and prayer from inside the library.
Highlighting the connection between the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and World Peace Day, Pope Francis prayed that Mary, “who gave birth to the Prince of Peace and cuddled him with such tenderness in her arms, obtain for us from heaven the precious gift of peace, which cannot be fully pursued with human strength alone.”
“Human efforts alone are not enough,” he repeated, “because peace is above all a gift – a gift from God to be implored with incessant prayer, sustained with patient and respectful dialogue, constructed with an open collaboration with truth and justice and always attentive to the legitimate aspirations of individuals and peoples.”
Peace, he insisted, is a gift that requires a human response and human effort.
“Each of us, men and women of this time – each person – is called to make peace happen each day and in every place we live, taking by the hand those brothers and sisters who need a comforting word, a tender gesture, supportive help,” he said. “This is a task God gives us; the Lord gives us the task of being peacemakers.”
Pope Francis prayed that 2021 would be a time of “human and spiritual growth, that it be a time in which hatred and divisions – and they are many – are resolved, that it be a time to build and not to destroy, to take care of each other and of creation.”
The past year, with so much suffering and death because of Covid-19, “taught us how much it is necessary to take an interest in others’ problems and to share their concerns,” he said.
One place that should raise particular concern and many prayers, he said, is Yemen where 25 people were killed and more than 100 injured on 30th December when a bomb exploded at the airport in Aden as members of the country’s new Cabinet were arriving.
After nine years of war in the country, Pope Francis prayed for “peace for that martyred population.”
“Brothers and sisters,” he said, “think about the children of Yemen! They are without education, without medicine, starving. Let us pray for Yemen.”
Pope Francis also led prayers for Auxiliary Bishop Moses Chikwe of Owerri, Nigeria, and his driver, who were kidnapped on 27th December.
The Archdiocese of Owerri announced on 1st January that Bishop Chikwe and his driver Mr Ndubuisi Robert had been released from their abductors “unhurt and without ransom”.
Picture: Smoke billows from the sites of Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, on 27th November 2020. During his 1st January Angelus, Pope Francis offered prayers for the people of war-torn Yemen, especially the nation’s children left without education and often without food by years of civil war. (CNS photo/Khaled Abdullah, Reuters).