In Christmas Message, Pope Asks Atheists to Join Believers in Work for Peace

In his first Christmas address, Pope Francis called on Atheists to join believers in the question for "a homemade peace." The pope's first "Urbi et Orbi" — to the city and world — address focused on peace around the world, particularly in the Central African Republic and in Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Israel/Palestine. He delivered the message to a crowd of 70,000, gathered around St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. "Peace is a daily commitment. It is a homemade peace," he said.

His message to atheists was an apparent departure from the prepared text, which did not mention non-believers.

"I invite even non-believers to desire peace. [Join us] with your desire, a desire that widens the heart. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace," the pontiff said, and was reportedly met with applause from the gathered crowd. This isn't the first time the new pope played nice with non-believers, either. He earlier said that atheists are OK in his book, as long as they do good.

In his remarks about the ongoing conflicts around the world, Pope Francis echoed his blueprint for the papacy, in which he said that he prefers "a church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security." "Yet you, Lord, forget no one! And you also want to bring peace to that land, torn apart by a spiral of violence and poverty, where so many people are homeless, lacking water, food and the bare necessities of life," he said on Wednesday.

And then he concluded:

Dear brothers and sisters, today, in this world, in this humanity, is born the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Let us pause before the Child of Bethlehem. Let us allow our hearts to be touched, let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God; we need his caress. God is full of love: to him be praise and glory forever! God is peace: let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.