Published 12/26/2023 16:22 | Edited 12/29/2023 16:01
In the traditional Christmas blessing “Urbi et Orbi,” Pope Francis made an emotional appeal for peace in the world and strongly criticized the arms industry, especially in relation to the conflict between Israel and Gaza. Around 70,000 people filled St. Peter’s Square to hear the pontiff’s words at noon.
The Pope expressed concern about the “abominable attack” on southern Israel on October 7, calling for the release of hostages and urging an end to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. He lamented the “terrible deaths of innocent civilians” and called for humanitarian aid for the region. The religious leader highlighted that the children affected by the conflicts are “the little Jesuses of today.”
In a blunt way, Francisco questioned how it is possible to talk about peace when the production, sale and trade of weapons continue to increase globally. Regarding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, he expressed the hope that it will be resolved through sincere and persevering dialogue, supported by strong political will and the international community.
At Midnight Mass, celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Eve, Pope Francis once again addressed the issue of war, mentioning Bethlehem, the hometown of Jesus, whose festivities were canceled due to the conflict. He denounced the “roar of arms” that prevents the arrival of the Prince of Peace and spoke about the suffering of brothers and sisters in Palestine, Israel and Ukraine.
Pope Francis during Christmas Eve Mass
Although he did not explicitly mention Israel and Gaza at Midnight Mass, the Pope had already addressed the conflict during the noon Angelus prayer, referring to the brothers and sisters who suffer from the war in these regions.
Palestinian Christians, in a significant gesture, have chosen to cancel most Christmas festivities in Bethlehem this year, marking a contrast to the usual festive atmosphere. The traditional large Christmas tree and life-size nativity scene were not installed in the city.
During his visit to the Holy Land, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Pope’s almoner, represented Francis and delivered messages of solidarity to the faithful. He brought the Pope’s greetings to around two thousand faithful gathered for the Christmas celebration at the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, highlighting the Pope’s support, prayers and appeal for humanitarian aid.
The cardinal’s mission also included a meeting with families of people in Gaza, who are facing the horrors of war. The Pope, through the almoner, sent direct aid to the region, focusing especially on children and the wounded.
The situation in the Holy Land is challenging, with many people facing hardship due to the war. Pope Francis and the Vatican expressed their commitment to offering support and humanitarian aid, seeking to alleviate the suffering of people affected by conflicts in the region. Cardinal Krajewski highlighted the need to prepare post-war measures, such as rebuilding homes and schools, emphasizing the importance of supporting those who wish to stay and rebuild their lives.