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Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Pope lamented the “Grave Famine of Peace” in his Christmas Address

From a balcony above St. Peter’s Square on Christmas Eve, Pope Francis pleaded for “concrete acts of solidarity” with the beleaguered Ukrainians who are spending the holiday “in the dark and cold, separated from their homes owing to the damage wrought by 10 months of war.”

Francis, in his 10th “to the city and to the globe” (Urbi et Orbi) Christmas benediction, lamented the “icy winds of conflict that continue to buffet mankind” and reflected on the birth of Jesus as a sign of peace.

He prayed that God would “enlighten the thoughts of those who have the capacity to hush the thunder of guns and put a rapid stop to this senseless conflict” because of the suffering in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s unjustified invasion.

He failed to even utter the name of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.

It took Francis a long and winding road to find his voice and begin publicly opposing war, but he does so today on a regular basis.

Francis has resisted labelling Mr. Putin, or even Russia itself, as the aggressor because of a desire to retain the Vatican’s historic reluctance to selecting sides in war and the ingrained anti-NATO attitude in certain sections of the Vatican. The Vatican finally issued a statement at the end of August admitting that “the large-scale conflict in Ukraine” was “started by the Russian Federation,” after questions were raised about whether the pope was endangering his moral authority. It asserted that Francis’s criticism was “unequivocal.”

The previous month, he had angered Ukrainians by describing the “innocent” victim of a vehicle bombing as Daria Dugina, a Russian ultranationalist who had advocated for the invasion of Ukraine. Though he has long been an outspoken opponent of the arms trade, Pope Francis recently indicated that supplying Ukraine with defensive weaponry was OK with him. Francis said at the time that using force in self-defense was “not only permissible, but also a sign of love of nation”

But Francis continued, “As a rule, probably the more vicious are those who are from Russia but do not adhere to the Russian tradition, such as Chechens. Many Chechens adhere to Islam. Traditional Buryat religion has elements of both Buddhism and shamanism, and the people who practise it are classified as a subgroup of the Mongol people.

Francis’ comments not only baffled Westerners, but also outraged Russia, which has now sought an apology from the Vatican. Its ambassadors reportedly reached out to Moscow and apologised.

This month, Francis urged believers to cut down on extravagant Christmas spending in order to help those in Ukraine who are suffering through the harsh winter.

Francis entrusted most of the celebration to a cardinal on Saturday so that he wouldn’t have to stand for too long. He used a cane to assist him go up onto the balcony of the basilica that overlooked the plaza, where he spent Christmas Day.

On Sunday, he discussed “theatres of this third global war” somewhere than Ukraine.

Francis also reaffirmed the tenets of his papacy, especially his concern for refugees and the poor, describing the world as “sick with apathy” and “unwelcoming to Jesus” in the same way as it is unwelcoming to “many immigrants” and the poor.

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