Pope Francis has used his Christmas message to call for nations to come together and share the coronavirus vaccine so poorer countries are not left last in line.
The Pope delivered his traditional ‘Urbi et Orbi’ (to the city and the world) virtually from a lectern inside the Vatican instead of from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica before tens of thousands.
He spoke largely about the pandemic and its impact across the world, before calling for global unity and help for nations suffering from conflicts and humanitarian crises.
He said: ‘At this moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and grave economic and social imbalances only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, it is all the more important for us to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters.
‘May the Son of God renew in political and government leaders a spirit of international cooperation, starting with health care, so that all will be ensured access to vaccines and treatment. In the face of a challenge that knows no borders, we cannot erect walls. All of us are in the same boat.’
Upper-middle-income countries have collectively reserved about 5 billion Covid vaccine doses, according to the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.
Most of these have been secured through bilateral deals between governments and vaccine manufacturers, Clare Wenham, an assistant professor of global-health policy at the London School of Economics, told the Atlantic.
This is where governments pay for doses upfront, giving them a ‘ticket to the front of the queue’.
The Pope also went on to call for peace and reconciliation in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Sudan, Nigeria and Cameroon and Iraq, which he is due to visit in early March.
He prayed for the comfort of those suffering from humanitarian crises and natural disasters in Burkina Fasso, Mali, Niger, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Italy is currently under a nationwide lockdown, with restrictions not allowing people to visit St. Peter’s Square or the basilica for events.
Pope Francis told his Christmas Eve mass – which started two hours early so the few attendees could get home before the 10 pm curfew – that Christmas is a time to help others because Jesus himself was born an outcast.
He said last night: ‘May the Child of Bethlehem help us, then, to be generous, supportive and helpful, especially towards those who are vulnerable, the sick, those unemployed or experiencing hardship due to the economic effects of the pandemic, and women who have suffered domestic violence during these months of lockdown.’
The Archbishop of Canterbury also led a Christmas day service with the congregation socially-distanced and masked up.
He preached about the past ‘year of anxiety’ that changed a cough and a fever into a ‘genuine threat’.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Vincent Nichols spoke about the ‘quiet heroism’ that ‘penetrates the darkness’ at an online version of Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral.
He said: ‘Have we not seen these months of difficulty marked by countless acts of random kindness, quiet heroism, selfless service, remarkable community efforts, all directed towards those most in need?’
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