ROME — Pope Francis on Friday called on world leaders, businesses and international organizations to help ensure that the most vulnerable and needy have access to newly developed coronavirus vaccines.
Instead of speaking to the tens of thousands usually gathered on St. Peter’s Square, Francis made his annual Christmas address from a grandiose hall inside the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican.
“We cannot allow the various forms of nationalism closed in on themselves to prevent us from living as the truly human family that we are,” the pope said.
“Nor can we allow the virus of radical individualism to get the better of us and make us indifferent to the suffering of other brothers and sisters,” he said. “I cannot place myself ahead of others, letting the law of the marketplace and patents take precedence over the law of love and the health of humanity.”
Nearly a quarter of the world’s population may not have access to a coronavirus vaccine until at least 2022, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal. The leaders of many poorer countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have said they are concerned that they will be unable to provide the vaccine for much, if any, of their populations.
Around the world this year, Christians scaled back or reimagined Christmas traditions.
A choral concert was held at Notre Dame in Paris, but this season the annual French tradition took place without the usual audience.
Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral in London was scaled back, with the service streamed online instead of attended in person.
In the Holy Land, the thousands of pilgrims usually flocking to Bethlehem to celebrate were absent.
Christmas Eve Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was subdued, with attendance limited to 25% of capacity, or 500 people.
The pope asked the world to recall the suffering of so many in 2020 — from the Yazidis in Iraq to the Rohingya in Myanmar. He said it was the duty of every citizen of the world to help end violence and ease suffering.
Francis said the world faced a “moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and grave economic and social imbalances only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.”
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