Pope Francis’s traditional Christmas message on Christmas Day focused on the war in the Middle East

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In his traditional Christmas message on Christmas Day, Pope Francis focused this year on the war in the Middle East. The head of the Catholic Church called for a quick and lasting solution at the negotiating table. The Pope also called for peace in other conflict regions and compared abortions as a “massacre of innocents” to the suffering of children in war.

Francis called on Christians to say “no” to war and weapons. “For if a man whose heart is unsteady and wounded has the instruments of death in his hands, he will use them sooner or later. And how can we speak of peace when the production, sale, and trade of weapons are on the increase?” said the 87-year-old.

The Christmas message and the blessing “Urbi et orbi” (“To the city and the world”) are a highlight of the Christian Christmas celebrations, with tens of thousands gathering in St. Peter’s Square. This year, the Pope blessed standing up and remaining seated during the address. The 87-year-old has been suffering from health problems for some time now, particularly a knee ailment. 6,500 faithful attended Christmas Mass with the Pope on Sunday evening, and 3,000 pilgrims followed the mass on screens in St. Peter’s Square.

Mourning for the victims of the Hamas attack on October 7
The Pope expressed his closeness to the people of Israel and Palestine. “I embrace them all, especially the Christian communities in Gaza and throughout the Holy Land. I mourn in my heart for the victims of the despicable attack of October 7 and renew my urgent appeal for the release of those who are still being held hostage,” the Pope declared.

“Do not continue to incite violence and hatred, but bring the Palestinian question to a solution through a sincere and persevering dialogue between the parties, backed by a strong political will and the support of the international community.”

However, the Pope also asked that “the military operations with their horrific consequences for innocent civilian victims be stopped and that something be done about the desperate humanitarian situation by allowing aid supplies to arrive.”.

“Closeness to the tormented people” in Ukraine
Francis also prayed for peace in Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine. “We reaffirm our spiritual and human closeness to their tormented people so that they may feel the concreteness of God’s love through the support of each one of us,” said Francis. He also prayed for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In his Christmas address, the Pope also condemned the activities of the arms industry, which derives great profit from wars and conflicts. “To say no to war, we must say no to weapons,” said Francis. “Because if man, whose heart is unsteady and wounded, has the instruments of death in his hands, sooner or later he will use them.” The Pope spoke of “machinations of evil that oppose the divine light, in the shadow of hypocrisy and secrecy.” The interests and profits of the “masterminds of wars” must be made public.

Tens of thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square; unlike in previous years, there was plenty of free space at the back.
“How many massacres of innocents there are in the world: in the womb; on the routes of the desperate in search of hope; in the lives of so many children whose childhoods are destroyed by war? They are the Jesus children of today,” Francis emphasized. The 87-year-old, who has been at the head of the Catholic Church for more than a decade, is known as a strict opponent of abortion. He has even described abortions as murder.

Christmas is being celebrated very quietly in the Holy Land this year due to the Gaza war between Israel and the Islamist Hamas. In Bethlehem in the West Bank—according to tradition, the birthplace of Jesus Christ—there are hardly any tourists, unlike usual. Christmas trees have been dispensed with. Israeli army roadblocks severely restrict access to the city. There are practically no Christmas decorations in Jerusalem, either. Christians are a very small minority in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

  • source: orf.at/picture: screenshot Zeit im Bild: orf.at

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