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French press review 26 December 2014

The Pope's speech on Christmas day, goodish news from Ukraine, the 10 year-old anniversary of the Tsunami and as always a gloomy overview of the situation in France... Here's a glimpse at what the three newspapers in our mailbox today had to say.

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As some of you may know - France enjoys a free press and has more than 100 daily newspapers.

Not today, alas. There were only three newspapers in the Paris Live mail-box this morning, the explanation of course, is Christmas.

Even journalists need a break it seems.

Understandably, the front page of the Catholic daily - la Croix - along with the first three inside pages are devoted to Christmas and related matters.

Under the headline “Christmas tenderness in a world of tears” the paper reports on the Christmas blessing of Pope Francis delivered yesterday to the faithful in Rome and million more worldwide.

The paper's front page editorial begins with the Pontiff's lament that there are so many tears this Christmas. Pope Francis spoke of the many places where human dignity is in danger.These included Iraq and Syria where there is a "brutal persecution" of religious minorities, Ukraine, Nigeria and Libya.

But what will be remembered opines la Croix is the Pope's deep concern about violence against children. He mentioned specific events such as the horrific attack against a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.

But his speech was raised to a level of rare intensity to evoke children "killed and abused before seeing the light of day” and "those who are" abused and exploited under our eyes and with our silent complicity.

His other key message of this Christmas was tenderness: "How much the world needs tenderness today!” proclaimed the Pope.

No doubt about that. But one has to wonder how many in conflict zones will listen and learn.

La Croix does have goodish news from Ukraine where representatives of Kiev and separatists have agreed to arrange an exchange of prisoners.

After two weeks of uncertainty it reports a meeting was finally able to take place in Minsk, Belarus on 24 December between representatives of the Ukrainian central government and pro-Russian separatist leaders in the country.

The meeting that lasted five hours led to an agreement in principle to conduct a prisoner exchange: 225 Ukrainian soldiers could be released in exchange for 150 rebel fighters held in Ukraine.

Left-wing Libération tells of other progress of a sort in Ukraine.

On two inside pages, the paper has a report by its correspondent in Donetsk in the troubled east of the country where an NGO named “the Black Tulips” is collecting the bodies of those killed in the conflict, seeking to identify them and finally return them to their loved ones.

A small enough comfort in a still unresolved conflict which Libé says as well as the dead and wounded is costing Ukraine a staggering 4.5 million euros a day.

Both papers look back at the Asian Tsunami which 10 years ago today swept over coastal areas around the Indian Ocean and left 200,000 people dead.

La Croix considers the lessons learnt. Foremost among them the need for advance warning. Today, happily, 24 countries in the zone at risk from future tsunamis have warning systems in place.

Libé carries the moving story of Florence Titeux, about how the young French woman has rebuilt her life after losing five loved ones while on a beach holiday in Thailand.

The communist daily l'Humanité, gloomy as ever, seems not the know it's Christmas. The paper's front page is wall to wall misery.

L'Humanité says that in recent years more and more families have arrived in France from Spain, Portugal and Italy. Many of them originally from elsewhere, for example Algeria, Morocco or Cape Verde.

The economies of all three are on the rocks so to speak. To many the prospects here in France looked much better.

Big mistake, says the paper. Jobs and accommodation are almost impossible to find. Scarcely surprising given that France has around three-and-a-half million unemployed. The recent arrivals says l'Humanité are the castaways of economic collapse.

Other rib-ticklers offered by the comrades are criticism of the Socialist government's efforts to loosen the red tape attached to work. Like too many in France it's not working says the paper. As evidenced by the increase in the number of unemployed.

And if you were still feeling fairly cheerful, there's a report on a disaster 40 years ago in which 42 coal miners died in an explosion at Lens-Liéven in northern France.The catastrophe was avoidable says l'Humanité.

To be fair yesterday does look to have been a slow news day.
 

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