From the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the 86-year-old pope called for an end to Russia’s “senseless” war in Ukraine and other “forgotten” and long-running conflicts, including the Syrian civil war and clashes between Israel and Palestine.
“Our time is experiencing a grave famine of peace,” he said, speaking to the thousands of people gathered for Pope Francis‘s 10th “Urbi et Orbi” (to Rome and to the world) Christmas message.
“Let us see the faces of all those children who, everywhere in the world, long for peace. Let us also see the faces of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters who are experiencing this Christmas in the dark and cold, far from their homes due to the devastation caused by ten months of war,” he continued.
“May the Lord inspire us to offer concrete gestures of solidarity to assist all those who are suffering, and may he enlighten the minds of those who have the power to silence the thunder of weapons and put an immediate end to this senseless war!” he added.
On December 24, at least five people died and 35 were wounded during a Russian strike on the city of Kherson.
The pope also called the public’s attention to the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine on other countries, including Afghanistan and nations in the Horn of Africa, vulnerable to suffer exacerbated food insecurity as a result of the conflict in Eastern Europe.
It was a rare comment from the Vatican on the ongoing situation in Iran, where mass anti-government protests have been storming the country for weeks after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had being arrested by the Iranian morality police on September 13 for “improperly” wearing her hijab.
Pope Francis also mentioned the recent explosion of violence between Israel and Palestine, calling for renewed dialogue between the two countries in the Holy Land, the birthplace of Jesus, “where in recent months violence and confrontations have increased, bringing death and injury in their wake.”
According to Reuters, this year has seen the worst level of violence in clashes between in the West Bank in more than a decade, with at least 150 Palestinians and over 20 Israelis killed since the beginning of 2022.
But the mention of a “famine” of peace was more than just a metaphor.
Pope Francis said that while many will sit around “a well-spread table” on Christmas Day and massive amounts of food get wasted across the world every day, many—including the homeless, migrants and refugees—lack food and warmth, while precious resources are spent on weapons.