The suffering of Christians around the world framed much of the pontiff’s traditional Christmas Day “Urbi et Orbi” message (Latin for “to the city and to the world”). Bundled up in an ermine-trimmed crimson cape against a chilly rain, he delivered his assessment of world suffering from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Benedict’s exhortation to Catholics who have risked persecution in China highlighted a spike in tensions between Beijing and the Vatican over the Chinese government’s defiance of the pope’s authority to name bishops. The pope has also been distressed by Chinese harassment of Rome-loyal bishops who didn’t want to promote the state-backed official Catholic church.
“May the birth of the savior strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience,” Benedict said, praying aloud.
Chinese church officials did not immediately comment late Saturday. A day earlier, one said the Vatican bears responsibility for restoring dialogue after it had criticized leadership changes in China’s official church.