A humanitarian crisis is under way in Iraq with thousands of civilians fleeing from their homes with nothing, because of the attacks against religious minorities by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who have taken control of great areas in the north. According to the UN over the last 48 hours 200,000 civilians have fled the advance of ISIL.

“Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare”, the courage “to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity”, said the Pope to Simon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican

Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa O.F.M., custodian of the Holy Land, and Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, presented the details of the “Invocation for Peace” initiative scheduled to take place in the Vatican on Sunday. Pope Francis has invited the presidents of Israel and Palestine, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, to join him in a prayer encounter.

Pope Francis appealed repeatedly to peace in the Middle East during his visit to the Holy Land in reference to the Syrian war and the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He made an unscheduled stop at the separation wall near Bethlehem to pray there and invited the presidents of Israel and Palestine to go to the Vatican to pray together for peace with him.

“Repent. You still have time so as not to end up in hell.” said Pope Francis referring to the men and women currently involved in the mafia. It was during a prayer vigil with the families whose loved ones were killed by mafia violence.

Pope Francis called on a more human communication in this era of digital technology and the Internet that can be a source of great good but also can turn into something cold, impersonal and even isolating.

In his first Christmas Message Urbi et Orbi from the Vatican Pope Francis made an appeal for peace, calling believers and non believers to be united in this purpose. “All united, either by prayer or by desire. But all of us, for peace,” he said.