The defeat of rebel forces in Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city, has allowed Maronite Catholics to celebrate the first Mass in their cathedral since 2012.
The Reuters news agency reported that Aleppo’s Christians are jubilant at the recent victory of President Bashar al-Assad and that Russian soldiers, who supported Assad, joined local Christians for Christmas Mass at St. Elias Cathedral.
The sultanate of Brunei has banned public celebrations of Christmas.
Christians are allowed to celebrate in their own homes, but a new law makes public displays—including any Christmas decorations—punishable by up to five years in prison.
The ban was demanded by Islamic leaders in the oil-rich former British colony. They feared that public signs of the Christmas celebration could tempt Muslims to imitate Christian practices.
Continuing his new weekly series of catechetical addresses on Christian hope, Pope Francis devoted his December 21 general audience to Christ’s Nativity as the source of hope.
“Our catechesis on Christian hope leads us in these last days of Advent to contemplate the mystery of Christmas as the coming of hope into our world,” Pope Francis said to the crowds gathered in Paul VI Audience Hall. “By fulfilling his promises and sending his Son, born of the Virgin Mary, God established his Kingdom on this earth and directed our hope to eternal life.”
“This hope is realistic and reliable; it is a hope that redeems and saves, for Christ, by coming in the flesh, has opened the way for us to ascend to the Father,” the Pope continued. “In these days, as we prepare the Christmas crib in our homes and churches, let us be attentive to the message of hope it embodies.”
Pope Francis added:
In the little town of Bethlehem we see revealed God’s love for each of us, however small or lowly. In Mary, who trusted in God’s word, we see the Mother of Hope. Joseph, too, is the man of hope, who gave Jesus his name, which means “God saves.”
The peace proclaimed by the angels was heard with joy by the shepherds. May we too open our hearts to the Good News of the Savior’s birth and renew our hope in the Kingdom of justice, peace and holiness that he came to bring.