Pope Francis, in a moving Christmas Eve address at St. Peter’s Basilica, reflected on the simplicity of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and lamented the ongoing conflicts hindering peace in the world.
Addressing around 6,500 attendees, the Pope, adorned in white robes, expressed sorrow over the disruptions caused by contemporary conflicts, specifically referencing the recent violence initiated by Hamas in Israel on October 7.
As the Mass began, a figurine of the Christ child was unveiled before an altar adorned with greenery and white flowers. Children, representing various corners of the world, placed flowers around a golden throne, emphasizing the universal message of Christmas.
Pope Francis, standing beneath St. Peter’s grand columns, drew parallels between Jesus’ humble birth and the current pursuit of worldly power. He cautioned against a world “obsessed with achievement” and highlighted Jesus’ modest entry into the world.
The Pope emphasized, “Here, we see not a god of wrath and chastisement, but the God of mercy, who takes flesh and enters the world in weakness.”
After the Christmas Eve Mass, Pope Francis, using a wheelchair due to a painful knee ligament, proceeded down the basilica with a life-sized statue of Baby Jesus. Accompanied by children carrying bouquets, the statue was reverently placed in a manger as part of the nativity scene.
During the traditional midday Angelus blessing, overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis expressed solidarity with those affected by war, specifically mentioning conflicts in Ukraine and Israel’s response to Hamas’ attack in the Gaza Strip.
“We are close to our brothers and sisters suffering from war. We think of Palestine, Israel, Ukraine,” said Francis. He urged compassion for those facing misery, hunger, and slavery, emphasizing the need for humanity to prevail.
In his address to the gathered crowd in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis cautioned against equating celebration with consumerism, encouraging simplicity and sharing with those in need.
On Christmas Day, tens of thousands were expected to gather in St. Peter’s Square to hear Pope Francis deliver a message on global issues and offer his blessing. The speech, known as “Urbi et Orbi” in Latin, traditionally reviews global crises, including war, persecution, and hunger, echoing the spirit of hope and peace at the heart of Christmas.