VATICAN CITY (HPD) — Pope Francis used his Christmas message Sunday to lament the “raw winds of war” sweeping through humanity and made an impassioned call for an end to the fighting in Ukraine, after 10 months of conflict. which he described as “insane”.
At local noon, Francis offered the traditional message “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and to the world”, in Latin) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
Tens of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and residents of Rome filled St. Peter’s Square to listen to the pontiff and receive his blessing.
Francis also mentioned protracted conflicts in the Middle East, such as in the Holy Land, “where during the past months violence and conflicts have increased, with deaths and injuries.” He also prayed for a lasting truce in Yemen and reconciliation in Iran and Myanmar.
The Pope lamented that “the path of peace” is blocked by social forces such as “attachment to power and money, arrogance, hypocrisy, lies.”
“Indeed, we must note with pain that, at the same time that the Prince of Peace is given to us, the harsh winds of war continue to blow over humanity,” Francis said.
“If we want it to be Christmas, the Christmas of Jesus and of peace, let us look at Bethlehem and fix our gaze on the face of the child that has been born to us,” he said. “And in that small innocent countenance we recognize that of the children who in every corner of the world yearn for peace.”
Francis urged the faithful to remember the millions of Ukrainians who are without electricity or heat due to Russian attacks on energy infrastructure, as well as the millions living as refugees abroad or displaced in their own country since the Russian invasion of the February 24 ordered by the President of Russia Vladimir Putin.
“May our gaze be filled with the faces of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, who are living this Christmas in the dark, out in the open or far from their homes, because of the destruction caused by ten months of war,” the pope said.
Francis prayed that God “illuminates the minds of those who have the power to silence the weapons and put an immediate end to this senseless war.”
Francis, the first pope from Latin America, said he prays that Christmas “inspires all the authorities and all the peoples of the Americas to try to calm the political and social tensions experienced by various nations.”
He said he was thinking particularly of Haiti, the impoverished Caribbean country where nearly 100,000 people have fled the capital due to violence, according to a recent report by the United Nations migration agency.
The Pope asked that before a “well-prepared table”, the faithful think of Bethlehem, a town whose name means “house of bread”, and remember those who are hungry, especially children. “While vast amounts of food are wasted and goods squandered in exchange for weapons, entire villages are starving,” he said.
The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the shortage, he noted, with specific mention of Afghanistan and countries in the Horn of Africa.
Ukraine is one of the world’s top producers of grain and corn, but the use of underwater mines and a Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian ports since the start of the war choked off traffic from Ukrainian Black Sea ports. An agreement brokered by Turkey and the United Nations has tried to resolve the problem.
Gianfranco Stara contributed from Vatican City.