Pope condemns Gaza's appalling harvest of civilian deaths in Christmas message, saying it represents the contemporary embodiment of Jesus. He expressed deep concern about Israeli strikes causing a distressing toll on innocent civilians. During his Christmas Day "Urbi et Orbi" address, the Popealso condemned the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants as "abominable" and reiterated his plea for the release of approximately 100 hostages still held in Gaza.
Addressing thousands gathered in the square below from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, the 87-year-old Pope Francis once again criticized the armaments industry, stating that it holds the ultimate control over the "puppet-strings of war."
Celebrating the 11th Christmas of his pontificate, the Pope called for an end to conflicts - whether political, social, or military - in various regions, including Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. He also championed the rights of migrants worldwide.
How many innocents are being slaughtered in our world! In their mothers' wombs, in odysseys undertaken in desperation and in search of hope, in the lives of all those little ones whose childhood has been devastated by war. They are the little Jesuses of today.- Pope Francis
He specifically focused on the Holy Land, addressing the situation in Gaza. Palestinian health officials reported that Israeli air strikes claimed the lives of at least 78 people, marking one of the deadliest nights in the 11-week-long conflict between Israel and Hamas in the besieged enclave.
May it (peace) come in Israel and Palestine, where war is devastating the lives of those peoples. I embrace them all, particularly the Christiancommunities of Gaza and the entire Holy Land.- Pope Francis
Addressing the crowd from the very balcony where he made his first appearance on the night of his election on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis expressed sorrow for the victims of the "abominable attack on October 7." Once again, he reiterated his call for the release of hostages.
Pope Francis standing by a golden cross during his speech
I plead for an end to the military operations with their appalling harvest of innocent civilian victims and call for a solution to the desperate humanitarian situation by opening up the provision of humanitarian aid.- Pope Francis
In a report released last week, a U.N.-supported organization stated that the entire population of Gaza, numbering 2.3 million, is confronting crisis-level hunger, with the risk of famine escalating daily.
The Vatican, maintaining diplomatic ties with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, asserts that a two-state solution is the sole resolution to the longstanding conflict. Pope Francis emphasized the necessity of persistent dialogue between the parties, underpinned by robust political determination and international community support.
Devoting a significant portion of his message to the arms trade, Francis questioned the possibility of achieving peace when the production, sale, and trade of weapons are on the upswing. He advocated for a more thorough examination of the arms trade.
"It should be talked about and written about, to bring to light the interests and the profits that move the puppet strings of war," he said.
Despite grappling with recent bronchitis, the 87-year-old Francis seemed to fare well on Monday and during Christmas Eve Mass the previous night. However, he did experience occasional coughing and moments of breathlessness.