In Christmas message curbed by Covid, pope issues plea to world

Pope Francis in his Christmas message on Friday said political and business leaders must not allow market forces and patent laws to take priority over making Covid-19 vaccines available to all, condemning nationalism and "the virus of radical individualism".

In a sign of the times, Francis delivered his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message virtually from a lectern inside the Vatican instead of from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica before tens of thousands.

The pandemic and its social and economic effects dominated the message, in which Francis called for global unity and help for nations suffering from conflicts and humanitarian crises.

"At this moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and grave economic and social imbalances only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, it is all the more important for us to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters," he said.

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Christmas Day around the world
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Christmas Day around the world
Health workers wearing Christmas-themed accessories put on personal protective equipment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Ayeyarwady Covid Centre in Mandalay, Myanmar, on December 25, 2020, Christmas Day, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu / AFP) (Photo by YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images)
Activities coordinator Claire Paver (centre) walks with Mary Orme and her son Michael McKimm as they arrive for a Christmas Day visit with their mother and grandmother, Rose McKimm, at Aspen Hill Village care home in Hunslet, Leeds. The care home is able to host almost 50 visits for family members this Christmas after running successful trials of lateral flow testing for coronavirus. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Children wearing Santa Claus hats play during a Christmas Day party amid the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic in the capital Dhaka, Bangladesh, on December 25, 2020. (Photo by Mamunur Rashid/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
TURIN, ITALY - DECEMBER 25: The photographer's family members sit at the table for Christmas lunch with around printed photographs of relatives placed on chairs to recreate a normal Christmas day on December 25, 2020 in Turin, Italy. Italy prepares for the holiday period and while Covid-19 contagions lower, the Italian National Institute of Statistics warns over 73000 businesses closures, among which 13000 won't open again due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)
A healthcare worker dressed as Santa Claus prepares to distribute gifts to children at the Ayeyarwady Covid Centre in Mandalay, Myanmar, on December 25, 2020, Christmas Day, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu / AFP) (Photo by YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images)
Indonesian Christian wearing protective face mask and Santa Claus hat make a pilgrimage to the grave of his family who died from Covid-19 coronavirus, during the 2020 Christmast day at the Covid-19 burial complex in the Pondok Rangon public cemetery, East Jakarta, on December 25, 2020. (Photo by Aditya Irawan/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 26: An employee sprays disinfectant on a shopper's hand at Chadstone The Fashion Captial during the Boxing Day sales on December 26, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Australians celebrate Boxing Day with many taking advantage of the post-Christmas sale prices in what is usually the busiest day of the year for retailers in Australia. Extra safety protocols have been introduced this year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Naomi Rahim/Getty Images)
Nuns wears face mask as they attends Christmas Day Mass at Holy Rosary Church on December 25, 2020 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As Christians around the world celebrate Christmas, many have had to adapt as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forces churches to close or implement measures such as social distancing and reduced services. (Photo by Ahmed Salahuddin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Patrick Corkery (left) goes for a dip with Rachel and Sophie Moore from Sandycove during the Christmas Day swim at the Forty Foot bathing spot in Sandycove Dublin. (Photo by Damien Storan/PA Images via Getty Images)
A woman wearing a santa hat bodyboarding on Christmas Day at Tynemouth Beach on the North East coast. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 25: A member of the public takes advantage of the traffic free Tower Bridge while posing for a picture on December 25, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Last week, the British government scrapped a plan to allow household mixing in England for five days over Christmas. In London and southeast, household mixing was banned, and in other parts of the country indoor meetups were confined to Christmas Day. (Photo by Joseph Okpako/Getty Images)
Activities coordinator Claire Paver (centre) walks with Mary Orme and her son Michael McKimm as they arrive for a Christmas Day visit with their mother and grandmother, Rose McKimm, at Aspen Hill Village care home in Hunslet, Leeds. The care home is able to host almost 50 visits for family members this Christmas after running successful trials of lateral flow testing for coronavirus. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Volunteer steward Tom Swan (right) checks the ticket of John Crowe as Christmas Day mass gets underway at Saint Mary's Pro-Cathedral Parish in Dublin. (Photo by Damien Storan/PA Images via Getty Images)
BOLOGNA, ITALY - DECEMBER 25: Christmas atmosphere at Covid Unit of the Sant'Orsola hospital on December 25, 2020 in Bologna, Italy. (Photo by Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images)
People venture out for a swim in the approximately six degrees Celsius cold sea water on a sunny Christmas day, at Vejers Beach (Vejers Strand) in Jutland, Denmark, on December 25, 2020. (Photo by John Randeris HANSEN / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP) / Denmark OUT (Photo by JOHN RANDERIS HANSEN/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)
TURIN, ITALY - DECEMBER 25: The photographer's family members sit at the table for Christmas lunch with around printed photographs of relatives placed on chairs to recreate a normal Christmas day on December 25, 2020 in Turin, Italy. Italy prepares for the holiday period and while Covid-19 contagions lower, the Italian National Institute of Statistics warns over 73000 businesses closures, among which 13000 won't open again due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 25: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Nurse Marta Ayné visit Covid-19 patients on Christmas Day at the Covid-19 ward at Hospital del Mar on December 25, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. Spain has reported a recent increase in Covid-19 cases throughout the country this month, prompting many regional governments to introduce tighter restrictions on gatherings over the Christmas period. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
25 December 2020, Saxony, Dresden: Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers celebrates the High Mass for Christmas in Dresden Cathedral on Christmas Day with a small number of faithful who had to register in advance for this service. Photo: Matthias Rietschel/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Matthias Rietschel/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Mary Orme (right) and her son Michael McKimm embrace their mother and grandmother, Rose McKimm, during a Christmas Day visit at Aspen Hill Village care home in Hunslet, Leeds. The care home is able to host almost 50 visits for family members this Christmas after running successful trials of lateral flow testing for coronavirus. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 25: A group of friends sit on the edge of an empty Bondi Beach on December 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. December is one of the hottest months of the year across Australia, with Christmas Day traditionally involving a trip to the beach and celebrations outdoors. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
A woman holds a child dressed as Santa Claus on Christmas Day in Srinagar on December 25, 2020. (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP) (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images)
Mary Orme and her son Michael McKimm arrive for a Christmas Day visit with their mother and grandmother, Rose McKimm, at Aspen Hill Village care home in Hunslet, Leeds. The care home is able to host almost 50 visits for family members this Christmas after running successful trials of lateral flow testing for coronavirus. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
People attend the Midnight Mass at the Saint Sulpice Church in Paris on December 24, 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The Midnight Mass is the traditional mass of the Catholics that precedes Christmas Day, on Christmas Eve. (Photo by Adnan Farzat/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A swimmer in a santa hat takes a Christmas Day dip at the Serpentine, in central London. The Peter Pan Cup, the race organised annually on Christmas Day by the Serpentine Swimming Club, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions in Tier 4 London. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
Christian devotees attend a prayer service on Christmas Day at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, in Lahore on December 25, 2020.  (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP) (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 25: A woman wearing antlers looks at Bondi Beach on December 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. December is one of the hottest months of the year across Australia, with Christmas Day traditionally involving a trip to the beach and celebrations outdoors. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)
Police officers wearing face masks patrol at the Kabukicho entertainment district in Tokyo on Christmas day on December 25, 2020. (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo by STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)
Christian devotees attend a prayer service on Christmas Day in a church in Srinagar on December 25, 2020. (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP) (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL - 2020/12/24: Nepalese boys and girls dressed as Santa Claus takes part in the Christmas carols as they celebrate Christmas eve at HCM Church. Christmas Eve is the evening or entire day before Christmas Day, the festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas Day is observed around the world. (Photo by Prabin Ranabhat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 25: Children look on as Father James Collins lights candles during a Christmas Day service at St Paul’s Church in Burwood on December 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. December is one of the hottest months of the year across Australia, with Christmas Day traditionally involving a trip to the beach and celebrations outdoors. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - DECEMBER 24: A Carabinieri checkpoint in Piazza Venezia, in the evening, during the first day of lockdown on Christmas Eve on December 24, 2020 in Rome, Italy. Italy will remain under a nationwide lockdown over the Christmas period, as authorities seek to avoid further spikes in coronavirus infections. Italy, currently in a second wave, is still one of Europe's worst hit countries with 1.98 million people infected with the virus. (Photo by Fabrizio Villa/Getty Images)
December 24, 2020 - Orlando, Florida, United States - Travelers wearing face masks arrive at Orlando International Airport on the day before Christmas, ignoring health experts who recommend against holiday travel as the coronavirus pandemic hits record levels across the United States, on December 24, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Nurses receive gifts during Christmas Day in the Dr. Jose Manuel de los Rios Children Hospital, in Caracas, on December 24, 2020. (Photo by Cristian Hernandez / AFP) (Photo by CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
A girl wears a christmas hat as she and her mom wait to receive gifts during Christmas Day in the Dr. Jose Manuel de los Rios Children Hospital, in Caracas, on December 24, 2020. (Photo by Cristian Hernandez / AFP) (Photo by CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
CASCAIS, PORTUGAL - DECEMBER 24: A people wear protective masks while walking on the promenade above Praia da Duquesa on the afternoon before Christmas during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic on December 24, 2020 in Cascais, Portugal. Cascais still attracts tourists and locals even with the country under state of emergency until 07 January while facing a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 24: People dressed a Father Christmas roller blade on Oxford Street on December 24, 2020 in London, England. London and large parts of southern England were moved into a newly created "Tier 4" lockdown, closing non-essential shops and limiting household mixing. The government also scrapped a plan to allow multi-household "bubbles" to form for over a 5-day period around Christmas. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 24: A deserted Kings Cross Station mid afternoon on Christmas Eve on December 24, 2020 in London, England. London and large parts of southern England were moved into a newly created "Tier 4" lockdown, closing non-essential shops and limiting household mixing. The government also scrapped a plan to allow multi-household "bubbles" to form for over a 5-day period around Christmas. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 24: Covid-19 messages are seen on screens throughout Manchester City Centre on December 24, 2020 in Manchester, England. The city's shops remained open in the days before Christmas under the more permissive "Tier 3" of England's covid-19 measures. Other parts of England will enter "Tier 4," in which non-essential stores are closed, as of Boxing Day. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 24: People wearing Christmas hats are seen shopping in Manchester City Centre on December 24, 2020 in Manchester, England. The city's shops remained open in the days before Christmas under the more permissive "Tier 3" of England's covid-19 measures. Other parts of England will enter "Tier 4," in which non-essential stores are closed, as of Boxing Day. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)
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Stressing that health is an international issue, he appeared to criticise so-called 'vaccine nationalism', which UN officials fear will worsen the pandemic if poor nations receive the vaccine last.

"I beg everyone, heads of state, companies and international organisations to promote cooperation and not competition, to find a solution for everyone - vaccines for all - especially for the most vulnerable and needy in all areas of the planet," he said.

"The most vulnerable and needy must be first," he said, in the Vatican's Hall of the Benedictions, with only about 50 Vatican staff wearing masks sitting along the long walls.

"RADICAL INDIVIDUALISM"

"We can't put ourselves before others, putting market forces and patent laws before the laws of love and the health of humanity," he said. "We cannot let closed nationalisms block us from living like the true human family that we are."

Francis also appeared to criticise people who have refused to wear masks because it violates their freedom, an attitude that has become widespread in nations such as the United States.

"And neither can we allow the virus of radical individualism to triumph over us and make us indifferent to the suffering of other brothers and sisters," he said.

Italians are under a nationwide lockdown for much of the Christmas and New Year holiday period. The restrictions mean people are not able to go to St. Peter's Square or the basilica for papal events, all of which have been moved indoors.

Christmas is above all a time to help others because Jesus himself was born a poor outcast, Francis said on Thursday night at his Christmas Eve Mass, which started two hours early so the few participants could get home in time before a 10pm curfew.

"May the Child of Bethlehem help us, then, to be generous, supportive and helpful, especially towards those who are vulnerable, the sick, those unemployed or experiencing hardship due to the economic effects of the pandemic, and women who have suffered domestic violence during these months of lockdown," he said in his Friday address.

He then called for peace and reconciliation in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Sudan, Nigeria and Cameroon and Iraq, which he is due to visit in early March.

He also asked to comfort those suffering from humanitarian crises or natural disasters in Burkina Fasso, Mali, Niger, the Philippines and Vietnam.

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