Pope Francis, in Christmas Mass, urges world to set aside 'partisan interests'

Pope Francis is urging the world to put aside “partisan interests” this Christmas to help find a political solution to the ongoing wars in Yemen and Syria, and the conflicts happening around the globe.

Speaking to tens of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and Romans that gathered Tuesday in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said the universal message of Christmas is that "God is a good Father and we are all brothers and sisters."

Without fraternity, the pope says, "even our best plans and projects risk being soulless and empty." He added that "our differences, then, are not a detriment or a danger; they are a source of richness."

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Francis urged the international community to "work decisively for a political solution that can put aside divisions and partisan interests, so that the Syrian people, especially all those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere, can return to live in peace in their own country."

He said he hoped an internationally-brokered truce for Yemen would bring relief to that country's people, especially children "exhausted by war and famine."

Other Christmas wishes expressed by the pope included one for dialogue among Israelis and Palestinians so they can "undertake a journey of peace that can put an end to a conflict that for over 70 years has rent the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love."

He also cited conflicts and vulnerable populations in much of Africa, in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ukraine. He expressed hope that the "bonds of fraternity uniting the Korean peninsula" would be consolidated.

Pope Francis kneels on the altar as he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

Pope Francis kneels on the altar as he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (AP)

In his Christmas Eve Mass yesterday, Francis advised Christians to forgo greed, gluttony and materialism on Christmas and focus instead on the holiday's message of simplicity, charity and love.

During that homily, Francis lamented that many people find their life's meaning in possessions when the biblical story of Christ's birth emphasizes that God appeared to people who were poor when it came to earthly possessions, but faithful.

"Standing before the manger, we understand that the food of life is not material riches but love, not gluttony but charity, not ostentation but simplicity," Francis said, dressed in simple white vestments.

"An insatiable greed marks all human history, even today, when paradoxically a few dine luxuriantly while all too many go without the daily bread needed to survive," he said.

Francis often has focused on the world's poor and downtrodden, its refugees and marginalized, during his five-year papacy. The Catholic Church's first pope from Latin American instructed the Vatican to better care for the homeless around Rome, opening a barber shop, shower and medical clinic for them in the embracing colonnade of St. Peter's Square.

To extend his outreach this Christmas, Francis sent his trusted secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Iraq to celebrate with the country's long-suffering Christians.

Catholics are among the religious minorities targeted for ISIS-inspired violence that has driven tens of thousands from their homes.

Parolin met Monday in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. He is scheduled in the coming days to travel to northern Iraq to meet with Kurdish leaders in Irbil and to celebrate Mass in Qaraqosh in the Nineveh plains, near Mosul, according to the Vatican.

The Vatican has for years expressed concern about the exodus of Christians from communities that have existed since the time of Jesus, and urged them to return when security conditions permit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.