In Depth

Christmas messages from world leaders – 2014

Pope Francis launches 'blistering attack' on Vatican bureaucrats, while others honour victims of disaster

With the holidays upon us, leaders across the world have been delivering their annual Christmas messages. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has honoured the grieving families of the two hostages who died in last week's Sydney siege, while Pope Francis launched a "blistering attack" on Vatican bureaucracy...

David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK

Cameron reflected on the "very Christian values of giving, sharing and taking care of others". He also paid tribute to the armed forces, NHS workers fighting Ebola, emergency service personnel and charity workers. "This Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Christ with friends, families and neighbours," he said, "let us think about those in need at home and overseas, and of those extraordinary professionals and volunteers who help them."

Tony Abbott, prime minister of Australia

Less than two weeks after two hostages died in the Sydney cafe siege, Abbott urged Australians to think of families who have loved lost ones and to reach out to anyone who might have had a difficult year. "The last fortnight has been a heartbreaking time for our country," he said. "The thoughts and prayers of everyone are with those who are grieving this Christmas."

Pope Francis

The Pope's Christmas message to cardinals, bishops and priests was described by the Religion News Service as a "blistering attack" on Vatican bureaucracy. He listed the 15 "Ailments of the Curia", including "existential schizophrenia", the sickness of those living a double life and "spiritual Alzheimer's", which affects those who forget they are supposed to be joyful men of God. "The Curia is called on to always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fulfill its mission. But even it, as any human body, can suffer from ailments, dysfunctions, illnesses," he warned.

Benigno Aquino III, President of the Philippines

As millions prepare to celebrate Christmas in the disaster-weary islands of the Philippines, Aquino urged the country to open its hearts to those who are still affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 7,300 people in 2013, and Typhoon Hagupit earlier this month, which killed dozens more. "The past year brought another seemingly insurmountable challenge... But we have soldiered on. Through our solidarity and His benevolence, we gained the strength and wisdom to lead our people away from peril," he said.

Joachim Gauck, President of Germany

Following a series of rallies against immigration and Islam across Germany, Gauck used his Christmas message to call for understanding and openness in accepting refugees. "That we react with empathy to the plight around us, that most of us don't follow those who want to seal off Germany – that is for me a truly encouraging experience of this year," he said. Gauck added that solutions to wider problems could not be found "with eyes full of fear".

Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland

Last year, Higgins came under fire for failing to mention God, Christ or Christianity in his Christmas message, says The Independent. This year, he "elliptically" referenced the Christmas story and its values in reminding Ireland of the power of hospitality, but managed to avoid mentioning Jesus. "The story of Bethlehem, of the homeless Joseph and Mary anticipating the birth of their child, is at the heart of this holiday," said Higgins, "and it invites us to reflect on how we relate to the stranger, the vulnerable in our midst."

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey

Erdogan, who has been accused of pushing an increasingly Islamist agenda, wished Christians his "sincere greetings" for Christmas and highlighted the significance of "tolerance" in the country. "As we have always lived together in unity and solidarity throughout history, we shall continue to regard the diversities in our country as a source of richness; and we shall continue to build up the future together on the basis of respect for each other," he said.

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