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News Wrap: Pope calls for an end to terror in Christmas message

In our news wrap Friday, Pope Francis spoke out against atrocities by radical Islamists in his Christmas message, while Queen Elizabeth took note of the hardships suffered by millions and President Obama urged Americans to come together as one family of all faiths. Also, at least 14 people have been confirmed dead from storms that caused tornadoes in the South.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Christmas Day 2015 brought fresh appeals for an end to terror and a new focus on peace. The theme dominated annual messages from various world leaders, starting at the Vatican.

    Cheers erupted from the thousands in sunny St. Peter's Square, as the pope emerged to deliver his Christmas message. In it, he spoke out against atrocities by radical Islamists.

  • POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter):

    My thoughts also turn to those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako, and Tunis.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Francis didn't directly name the Islamic State group, but he did urge world leaders to focus on Syria, Libya and elsewhere. He also praised countries who've taken in refugees fleeing the violence. Some of those refugees spent their Christmas in a camp in Calais, France, where they have waited for months, hoping to get to Britain.

    Across the channel, Queen Elizabeth took note of the hardships suffered by many in her annual holiday message.

  • QUEEN ELIZABETH II:

    There's an old saying that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. There are millions of people lighting candles of hope in our world today.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Again this year, American troops spent Christmas in Afghanistan and other far-flung outposts, including Kuwait.

  • MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM HICKMAN, U.S. Army:

    Many of these soldiers have had to deploy multiple times during the Christmas holidays and other holidays, so, again, we just want to thank them for their service, and really tell them we appreciate what they do for our Army and really for our nation.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    President and Mrs. Obama also paid tribute to the troops in their pre-taped holiday message, and they urged Americans to come together as one family.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    Caring for those on society's margins, the sick and the hungry, the poor and the persecuted, the stranger in need of shelter, or simply an act of kindness, that's the spirit that binds us together, not just as Christians, but as Americans of all faiths.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The Obamas are spending their holidays in Hawaii again this year, hiking, golfing and seeing friends.

    It was a far more somber day for tornado victims across the South. At least 14 are now confirmed dead in Wednesday's storms. The same weather system also brought flood warnings in several states today, and much of the East Coast saw record warmth again with readings 20 degrees above normal.

    In Britain, the government called a rare holiday cabinet meeting to deal with record flooding in Northern England. The British army has been deployed to build barricades in Cumbria. That area has already seen the wettest December since records began in 1910.

    A world away, the problem is fire. Raging bushfires in Australia destroyed more than 50 homes southwest of Melbourne and forced hundreds of people to evacuate. The fires were burning near a popular tourist attraction, the Great Ocean Road. Witnesses said some people had to flee Christmas celebrations on a moment's notice.

    PATRICK CAREY, Local resident: They were all prepared, putting their barbecues on. They were cooking away. And, all of a sudden, they could see the smoke coming over the hill. They thought it was still four hours away, according to what they'd heard. And then, all of a sudden, it was an hour away, and, all of a sudden, it was half-an-hour away. So, they just dropped everything, stopped cooking and hopped in their car and headed here.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Crews are using water-bombing aircraft and 60 fire engines to battle the flames. But officials say it could take some time to make progress.

    Tragedy struck in Nigeria last night. An explosion at a gas plant killed dozens of people as they lined up to buy butane gas. One reporter said he saw about a hundred bodies. Officials say a truck was discharging gas at the facility when it exploded. The blast touched off a fire that raged for hours before it was finally doused.

    There's another sign of potential warming between India and Pakistan, after decades of war and tension. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Pakistan today. He met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and aides said they discussed the disputed Kashmir region. The two also met at the climate change talks in Paris this month.

    And an apology today from a British astronaut for an errant phone call. Tim Peake misdialed on a Christmas greeting from the International Space Station. Later, he tweeted: "I would like to apologize to the lady I just called, saying, hello, is this planet Earth? Not a prank call, just a wrong number."

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