VATICAN CITY, Dec. 25 (UPI)—Pope Francis prayed from a balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica before thousands for peace in Syria, Iraq and Africa during his first Christmas message as pope. The annual “Urbi et Orbi” message, “To the city (of Rome) and to the world,” pointed out peace is not merely a balance of opposing forces, but “calls for daily commitment… wars shatter and hurt so many lives.” The message, delivered before an audience estimated by Vatican TV of 150,000, concentrated on prayer for innocents caught in political conflict.
Sir Elton John is among a number of stars who have spoken out in support of Pope Francis after the Catholic leader was named Man of the Year by editors of an Italian magazine.
The new pontiff was awarded the title by Italy’s Vanity Fair, just four months after he ascended to the papacy, and the Rocket Man hitmaker was asked for his thoughts on the selection.
Sir Elton, who has previously claimed religion promotes “hatred and spite against gays”, was full of praise for Pope Francis, insisting he has the potential to help modernise the Catholic Church.
He tells the publication, “Francis is a miracle of humility in the era of vanity… This Pope seems to want to bring the Church back to the ancient values of Christ and at the same time, (bring it into) the 21st century. If you will reach out and touch the children, the women, the men who live with Hiv and Aids – often alone, and hidden by the silence – his beacon of hope will bring more light than any advancement of science, because no drug has the power of love “
Opera star Andrea Bocelli was also among stars who contributed to the piece on Pope Francis, telling the magazine the religious leader is “truly a gift from God”.