pope francis christmasPope Francis holds a figurine of baby Jesus during the Christmas Eve mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on December 24, 2023. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Pope Launches Christmas Events With Wars Looming Over Them

As the world celebrated Christmas, Pope Francis urged peace amid the ongoing conflicts in Israel and Ukraine that overshadowed the festive season. Children across the planet followed Santa’s journey online with a 3-D website run by a US-Canadian military agency.

People everywhere wore Santa hats and enjoyed various activities, such as racing in Spopje, surfing in Florida, jogging near Paris, swimming in Dover, and drinking in Lake Geneva.

The pope, however, spoke with sadness at the Vatican.

He said that in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, the Prince of Peace was still rejected by the senseless war and violence that kept him out of the world. He added that Jesus did not use force to end injustice, but love from below.

Earlier, the pope had said: “We are with our brothers and sisters who suffer from war – we have Palestine, Israel, and Ukraine in our minds”.

‘Hard to celebrate’ Bethlehem, the ancient city in the West Bank where Christians believe Jesus was born in a stable over two millennia ago, called off the usual Christmas festivities that attract many visitors.

The town skipped the big Christmas tree, the bands, and the elaborate nativity display this year, and only put up some lights. A large Palestinian flag was displayed in the town centre, with a sign that read: “The bells of Bethlehem call for a truce in Gaza”.

“Many people are giving their lives for this land,” said Nicole Najjar, an 18-year-old student. “It is very difficult to celebrate when our people are dying.” The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, came to the Church of the Nativity on Sunday, wearing the traditional black and white scarf.

He said: “Our heart is with Gaza, with all the people in Gaza, but especially with our Christian community in Gaza who is suffering.”

He said: “We are here to pray and to ask for more than a ceasefire, a ceasefire is not enough, we need to stop the aggression and to change the situation, because violence only breeds more violence.”

The Hamas assault on October 7 killed about 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on the official Israeli data.

The Palestinian fighters also kidnapped about 250 people, 129 of whom Israel says are still in Gaza. Israel’s fierce response involved a continuous bombing and ground invasion of Gaza, where 20,424 people died, mostly women and children, according to the latest report from the territory’s health ministry.

New Christmas Day Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia almost two years ago, is marking Christmas on December 25 for the first time, abandoning the Orthodox date of January 7, which is celebrated in Russia, as a way of defying Moscow.

“All Ukrainians are united. We all celebrate Christmas together. On the same day, as one large family, as one nation, as one solid country,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Christmas message on Sunday night.

In the southern Black Sea city of Odesa, worshippers prayed and lit candles as priests in golden robes led the Christmas Eve service in the Cathedral of the Nativity, adorned with fir trees and a nativity scene.

“We think that we should celebrate Christmas with the whole world, far, far away from Moscow. That’s the new message for me now,” said one happy churchgoer, Olena, whose son is a medic on the front line.

By dworldgist.com

Peter Ritdung Wakkias is a Nigerian blogger and programmer, known for being the CEO of www.dworldgist.com and www.gospelrespec.com. He holds a Higher National Diploma in Computer Science from Isa Mustapha Agwai 1 Polytechnic Lafia. Based in Lafia, Nasarawa State.

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