Pope Francis pleads for end to ‘icy winds of war’ in Ukraine in Christmas message – National

Pope Francis used his Christmas message on Sunday to lament the « icy winds of war » that are shaking humanity and to issue an impassioned call for an immediate end to the fighting in Ukraine, a 10-month-old conflict he called it « insane ».

At noon in Rome, Francis delivered the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (Latin for “to the city and to the world”) speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

On a sunny day, with midday temperatures reaching around 15 degrees Celsius, warm for a Roman winter, some 70,000 tourists, pilgrims and locals packed St. Peter’s Square to listen to the pontiff and receive his blessing.

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Francis also cited long-running conflicts in the Middle East, including in the Holy Land, “where in recent months violence and clashes have increased, leaving death and injury in their wake.” Furthermore, he prayed for a lasting truce in Yemen and for reconciliation in Iran and Myanmar, and cited violence and conflict in the Sahel region of Africa.

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He lamented that at Christmas the « road to peace » is blocked by social forces which include « attachment to power and money, pride, hypocrisy, lies ».

« Indeed, we must acknowledge with sadness that, even as the Prince of Peace is given to us, the icy winds of war continue to shake humanity, » Francis said.

“If we want this to be Christmas, the birth of Jesus and peace, let us look towards Bethlehem and contemplate the face of the child who was born for us,” he said. « And in that innocent little face, let’s see the faces of all those children all over the world yearning for peace. »

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Francis urged worshipers to remember the millions of Ukrainians who were without electricity and heat on Sunday due to Russian attacks on energy infrastructure, as well as the millions of other refugees abroad or displaced within their country since February 24 invasion ordered by the Russian President. Vladimir Poutine.

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“Let us also see the faces of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, who live this Christmas in the dark and the cold, far from home due to the devastation caused by 10 months of war,” the pontiff said, gesturing towards those the crowd waving small Ukrainian flags.

The pope prayed that the Lord « enlighten the minds of those who have the power to silence the thunder of arms and put an immediate end to this senseless war! »

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Hampered by a knee problem, Francis relied on a cane with a pronged support base to step forward slightly for a better view of the crowd below.

First pontiff of Latin America, he prayed that Christmas « inspire political authorities and all people of good will in the Americas to try to ease the political and social tensions experienced by various countries ».

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Francis said he was thinking particularly of Haiti, the impoverished Caribbean nation where nearly 100,000 people in the capital have fled gang-related violence, according to a recent report by the UN migration agency.

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« On this day, as we sit around a well-laid table, let us not take our eyes off Bethlehem, a city whose name means ‘house of bread’, but think of all those, especially children, who are hungry despite being huge, amounts of food are wasted every day and resources are spent on weapons.

« The war in Ukraine has further aggravated this situation, putting entire peoples at risk of starvation, especially in Afghanistan and countries in the Horn of Africa, » Francis said.

Early in the war, sea mines and a Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian ports stifled shipments from Ukrainian Black Sea ports, one of the world’s largest producers of grain and corn. A deal brokered by Turkey and the UN sought to resolve the issue.

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