On Christmas eve, Pope Francis laments 'futile' war in Holy Land

On Christmas eve, Pope Francis laments 'futile' war in Holy Land
Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for peace as he kicked off Christmas celebrations with a mass at Saint Peter's Basilica
3 min read
24 December, 2023
Pope Francis presides the Christmas Eve mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on December 24 [Getty]

Pope Francis on Sunday lamented that Jesus' message of peace was being drowned out by the "futile logic of war" in the very land where he was born, as the pontiff led the world's Roman Catholics into Christmas.

Francis, celebrating the 11th Christmas of his pontificate, presided at a solemn Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and spoke of the conflict in the Holy Land in his homily.

"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," Francis said.

The 87-year-old pontiff spoke hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to fight deeper into the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza after his troops endured one of the worst days of losses of their ground war.

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And 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."

At the papal Mass for 6,500 people in St. Peter's Basilica and more watching on screens in the square outside, Francis said the real message of Christmas is peace and love, urging people not to be obsessed with worldly success and the "idolatry of consumerism".

He spoke of "the all-too-human thread that runs through history: the quest for worldly power and might, fame and glory, which measures everything in terms of success, results, numbers and figures, a world obsessed with achievement".

Francis said that while many might find it hard to celebrate Christmas in "this world that is so judgmental and unforgiving", they should try to remember what happened on the first Christmas.

"Tonight, love changes history," he said.

Francis has made numerous appeals for a ceasefire in the deadly massacre raging in Gaza and has called for the release of all hostages held by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The Palestinian groups are still believed to be holding more than 100 hostages from among 240 they captured during their October 7 rampage through Israeli towns, that led to the killing of 1,200 people.

 Israel has expanded its siege on the Gaza Strip and laid much of it to waste, with more than 20,400 people confirmed killed, according to Palestinian authorities in Gaza, and thousands more believed dead under the rubble.

The vast majority of the 2.3 million Gazans have been driven from their homes and the United Nations says conditions are catastrophic.