‘Tonight, our hearts are in Bethlehem’: Pope Francis appeal for peace during Christmas Eve

In World


Pope Francis today appealed for peace as he kicked off Christmas celebrations with a mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica as the Israel-Hamas war raged in the Gaza Strip.

‘Tonight, our hearts are in Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace is once more rejected by the futile logic of war, by the clash of arms that even today prevents him from finding room in the world,’ the Pope said to some 6,500 faithful who attended the traditional service. 

Francis’s address never mentioned Israel or Gaza by name, but he made numerous references to violence and war, arguing that justice would not come ‘from a show of force’.

The 87-year-old pontiff said Jesus ‘does not eliminate injustice from above by a show of force, but from below, by a show of love’.

‘He does not burst on the scene with limitless power,’ he said, speaking in Italian with an official translation provided in seven languages.

Pope Francis presides the Christmas Eve mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on December 24, 2023

Pope Francis (R) greets a child as he leads the Midnight Christmas mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, 24 December 2023

Pope Francis (R) greets a child as he leads the Midnight Christmas mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, 24 December 2023

Pope Francis (R) leads the Midnight Christmas mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, 24 December 2023

Pope Francis (R) leads the Midnight Christmas mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, 24 December 2023

During his weekly Angelus prayer earlier today, the Pope said that ‘we are close to our brothers and sisters who are suffering from war – we are thinking of Palestine, of Israel, of Ukraine‘.

On Christmas Day, the pontiff is due to lead the traditional ‘Urbi and Orbi’ prayer at 1100 GMT, during which he normally mentions the conflicts around the world.

The Pope spoke hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to fight deeper into the Palestinian enclave of Gaza after his troops endured one of the worst days of losses of their ground war.

In the city where Jesus was born, Palestinian Minister of Tourism, Rula Ma’ayah, said: ‘Bethlehem is celebrating Christmas with sadness and sorrow because of what’s happening in Gaza and in all the West Bank, all Palestinian territories.’

Pope Francis (L) leads the Midnight Christmas mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, 24 December 2023

Pope Francis (L) leads the Midnight Christmas mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, 24 December 2023

Cardinals embrace each other during celebration of Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, December 24, 2023

Cardinals embrace each other during celebration of Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, December 24, 2023

Children arrive at St Peter's Basilica for Christmas night Mass presided by Pope Francis on December 24, 2023 in Vatican City

Children arrive at St Peter’s Basilica for Christmas night Mass presided by Pope Francis on December 24, 2023 in Vatican City

Pope Francis celebrates Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, December 24, 2023

Pope Francis celebrates Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, December 24, 2023

Pope Francis presides over the Christmas night Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on December 24, 2023 in Vatican City

Pope Francis presides over the Christmas night Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on December 24, 2023 in Vatican City

Pope Francis (C) leads the Midnight Christmas mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, 24 December 2023

Pope Francis (C) leads the Midnight Christmas mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, 24 December 2023

Pope Francis presides over Christmas eve Mass, at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday Dec. 24, 2023

Pope Francis presides over Christmas eve Mass, at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday Dec. 24, 2023

Pope Francis holds his homily during the Christmas night Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on December 24, 2023 in Vatican City

Pope Francis holds his homily during the Christmas night Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on December 24, 2023 in Vatican City

Pope Francis celebrates Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, December 24, 2023

Pope Francis celebrates Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, December 24, 2023

A Hamas attack on Israel October 7 left around 1,140 people dead, most of them civilians.

The Palestinian terrorists also abducted around 250 people, 129 of whom Israel says remain in Gaza.

Israel retaliated with a sustained bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza, where 20,424 people have been killed, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll from the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Francis has made numerous appeals for a ceasefire in the conflict and has called for the release of all hostages. 

Palestinians wait to collect food at a donation point in a refugee camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 24, 2023

Palestinians wait to collect food at a donation point in a refugee camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 24, 2023

Palestinians salvage their belongings after an Israeli strike in Rafah in southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, December. 24, 2023

Palestinians salvage their belongings after an Israeli strike in Rafah in southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, December. 24, 2023



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