In his customary Christmas letter, Pope Francis called for an end to the “senseless” conflict in Ukraine as well as other conflicts, and he also condemned the use of food as a weapon of war.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday urged people to look past the “shallow holiday glitter” and assist the homeless, immigrants, refugees, and the poor in their midst who are in need of comfort, warmth, and food. He was delivering the 10th Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing and message of his pontificate.
“Let us see the faces of all those children who, everywhere in the world, long for peace,” he said, speaking from the central balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
“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 10 months of war,” Francis told the tens of thousands of people in the square below.
“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!” the 86-year-old pontiff said.
A day after Ukrainian officials reported that a Russian strike on the freshly recaptured city of Kherson left at least 10 people dead and several others injured, he said just hours after air raid sirens wailed across Ukraine.
The pope once more condemned using food as a weapon of war, saying the conflict in the Ukraine has put millions of people at risk of starvation. He also mentioned Afghanistan and nations in the Horn of Africa.
The pope stressed that the crisis in Ukraine should not overshadow the need to address other conflicts or humanitarian crises, mentioning among others Syria, Myanmar, Iran, Haiti, and the Sahel region of Africa.
“We know that every war causes hunger and exploits food as a weapon,” he said, lamenting what he described as “a grave famine of peace”.
“[Let us] starting with those who hold political responsibilities, commit ourselves to making food solely an instrument of peace,” he added.
Huge amounts of food are wasted every day and resources are used to make weapons, he said, as several people sat around “a well-spread table.”
The Holy Land, the region of Jesus’ birth, is where the pope also urged for the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
With at least 150 Palestinians and more than 20 Israelis killed this year, the violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has reached its worst levels in more than a decade.