Pope Francis took advantage of his Christmas message on Sunday to lament the “crude winds of war” that are whipping humanity and made an impassioned call for an end to the fighting in Ukraineafter 10 months of a conflict that 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 they filled Saint 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 violence and conflicts have increased in recent months, 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 were without electricity or heat on Sunday due to Russian attacks on energy infrastructure, as well as the millions living as refugees abroad or displaced in their own country since the invasion. Russian 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.”
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 United Nations have tried to resolve the problem.
Gianfranco Stara contributed from Vatican City.