Pope Francis wishes Christmas peace to those scarred by war

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Pope Francis stands flanked a figurine of baby Jesus as he celebrates a mass on Christmas eve marking the birth of Jesus Christ on December 24, 2016 at St Peter's basilica in Vatican. / AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has wished Christmas peace for people scarred by wars and those who lost loved ones to terrorism that he says is sowing “fear and death” in many cities and countries.

Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica Sunday, Francis cited those suffering through the Syrian war, especially during the “most awful battles” in Aleppo. He pressed the international community for a negotiated solution. He urged Israelis and Palestinians to abandon hate and revenge.

He also lamented that in Nigeria “fundamentalist terrorism exploits even children,” a reference to child suicide-bombers.

He decried conflicts and tensions in Africa, eastern Ukraine, Myanmar, the Korean peninsula, Colombia and Venezuela.

Tens of thousands of faithful entering St. Peter’s Square endured long lines for security checks.