A group of salesmen dressed as Santa Claus wait for customers with a alpaca during a sales promotion in Beijing on December 25, 2014. AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO
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Pope Francis called for "tenderness" and "warmth" after a violence-plagued year as millions of Christians began marking Christmas.On Thursday, in his second "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) message, the pope was expected to address the plight of Christians and other religious minorities suffering persecution in the Middle East, notably at the hands of the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group.In Baghdad, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako said about 150,000 Christians had been displaced by an offensive spearheaded by the Islamic State group, which has targeted Christians and other minorities, with dozens leaving Iraq each day.In Syria, Christians in the war-torn city of Homs were enjoying their first Christmas in three years in the Hamidiyeh neighbourhood, with a brightly coloured tree and a manger made from rubble set up in the middle of the ruins.On Christmas morning in Australia, church leaders reflected on several tragedies that hit the country this year, including the Sydney cafe siege, where two hostages and the gunman died, the killings of eight children in Cairns and the Malaysia Airlines MH370 and MH17 flight disasters.
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