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News Wrap: Christmas Day car bombings target Christians in Baghdad

December 25, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: This Christmas Day brought new calls for a better world, but also new violence. Some spent the day just trying to stay warm, while others reveled in the cold. It was all part of Christmas 2013.

More than 70,000 people crowded St. Peter’s Square on Christmas morning to hear Pope Francis call for peace that is more than just a lovely facade. He singled out the troubled corners of the earth.

POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter): Let us continue to ask the lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid.

Grant peace to the Central African Republic, often forgotten and overlooked. Yet you, Lord, forget no one. Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state.

GWEN IFILL: The pontiff also prayed that Christians be protected from persecution.

As if to underscore the point, car bombings in Iraq killed at least 37 people in Christian areas of Baghdad today. But for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, it was a relatively peaceful day, with holiday food and celebrations. Volunteers in Athens served Christmas meals to the growing numbers of homeless driven to the streets during Greece’s long years of economic crisis.

MAN (through interpreter): Yes, the situation is getting worse. To give you an example, we used to give 1,200 meals a day. Now we’re giving 1,400.

GWEN IFILL: In their Christmas message, President and Mrs. Obama recognized Americans who help those in need.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what he taught us: to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, to feed the hungry and look after the sick, to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.

GWEN IFILL: And, in Britain, Queen Elizabeth’s traditional Christmas message urged her people to get the balance right in their daily lives.

QUEEN ELIZABETH II: With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock. Be it through contemplation, prayer or even keeping a diary, many have found the practice of quiet personal reflection surprisingly rewarding.

GWEN IFILL: The national security leaker, Edward Snowden, put out his own two-minute recording calling for reflection on how much surveillance is too much.

EDWARD SNOWDEN:  A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They will never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem, because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.

GWEN IFILL: For thousands of others, though, Christmas Day came down to a struggle with the elements. Powerful storms battered Britain and France in recent days, and torrential rains and hurricane-force winds left hundreds of homes and businesses flooded and without power.

Thousands more from the Great Lakes region to eastern Canada faced a bitterly cold Christmas in the dark, after weekend ice storms knocked out power.

WOMAN: We actually put the turkey out on the — out on the front porch because it was colder than the refrigerator.

GWEN IFILL: Some hearty souls reveled in the cold. As they do every year, 20 members of the Berlin Seals Club took their traditional Christmas dip in a near-freezing German lake.

In Russia today, prosecutors dropped charges of hooliganism against 29 crew members of a Greenpeace ship. They’d been seized in September outside a Russian oil rig in the Arctic. The criminal case was set aside under an amnesty passed by the Russian Parliament. Charges against the 30th and final crew member may be dropped tomorrow.

The president of South Sudan is calling for an end to ethnic killings, after 10 days of growing violence. His appeal appeared today on a government Twitter account. As he spoke, government troops and rebel forces battled for control of the capital city in oil-rich Upper Nile State. Meanwhile, a South Sudan official said the prime minister of Ethiopia and the president of Kenya will arrive tomorrow to try to mediate the conflict.

The military — the military-backed government in Egypt formally declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization today. It culminated a crackdown on the group that began when Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in July.

The announcement was delivered on state television by the deputy prime minister.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER HOSSAM EISSA, Egypt (through interpreter): The government reiterates that there will be no return to the past under any circumstances. And Egypt, the state and the people, will never succumb to the terrorism of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose crimes have gone beyond far all moral, religious and human limits.

GWEN IFILL: The minister said the decision was a direct response to a deadly bombing in the Nile Delta yesterday that killed 16 people and wounded more than 100. The Muslim Brotherhood denied any role in the attack.

A corruption investigation in Turkey triggered a government shakeup today. Prime Minister Erdogan replaced 10 cabinet ministers, including three who resigned earlier in the day. Two of them have sons who were arrested this week on bribery charges. Erdogan has charged the investigation is aimed at discrediting his government.

China’s ruling Communist Party has officially released a five-year plan to tackle corruption. The plan targets wrongdoing that triggers protests or leads to industrial accidents. It gives relatively few details, but does include heavier punishment for bribes. Chinese President Xi Jinping has made cracking down on corruption a priority.