Pope Francis delivers Christmas message


Pope Francis is wishing for a better world, with peace for the land of Jesus' birth, for Syria and Africa, as well as for the dignity of migrants and refugees fleeing misery and conflict.

In his Christmas message today, the pope spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to tens of thousands of people in the square below.

Francis singled out Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Iraq as places ravaged by conflict. And he also prayed for fruitful peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

The pope said he was joining in the song of Christmas angels with all those hoping "for a better world," and with those who "care for others, humbly."

Crowds gather in Bethlehem for Christmas

Meanwhile, thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world have packed the West Bank town of Bethlehem for Christmas celebrations, bringing warm holiday cheer to the biblical birthplace of Jesus.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, celebrated Midnight Mass in the Church of the Nativity.

Greeting English-speaking worshippers, he said, "Welcome to Bethlehem, the city of the word of God made flesh."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, were among the dignitaries attending the service.

Excited tourists milled about the town's Manger Square, stopping in restaurants and souvenir shops and admiring a large, illuminated Christmas Tree. Marching bands and scout troops performed for the visitors in the streets, and on a stage next to the tree.