In his sermon to the approximately 6,500 believers who celebrated Christmas Eve with him in Rome, the 87-year-old head of the Catholic Church mentioned neither Israel nor the Gaza Strip. But he made numerous allusions to violence and war.
God does not “break in with limitless power,” he does not defeat injustice “from above with violence, but from below with love,” said Francis. In his weekly Angelus prayer, he had previously emphasized "that we are close to our brothers and sisters who are suffering from war - we think of Palestine, of Israel, of Ukraine."
In his sermon in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis, as he did last year, spoke out against a culture of "consumerism." The idea of God as a "powerful ruler" who is associated with "worldly success and the idolatry of consumerism" is false.
On Monday afternoon, Francis will announce his Christmas message, in which he usually addresses conflicts in the world. From the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica he gives the solemn blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world).
In Bethlehem in the West Bank, the biblical birthplace of Jesus, Christmas is celebrated in a more subdued mood. In view of the war between Israel and Hamas, the city council and church representatives decided to forego "unnecessarily festive" celebrations. The usual rush of visitors also failed to materialize.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said on Sunday when he arrived at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem that his thoughts were with the people of the Gaza Strip and especially with the Christian community in the Palestinian territory.
"We are here to pray and not just to demand a ceasefire, a ceasefire is not enough," the patriarch said. "We must end these hostilities and start a new chapter because violence only leads to more violence."
In his traditional midnight mass in the St. Catherine's Church adjacent to the Church of the Nativity, the Latin Patriarch promised the people of the Gaza Strip: "We will not give up on you." The people in the Palestinian territory "no longer have a safe place, no house, no roof," he told hundreds of believers. People lack the bare necessities, they are starving and are exposed to “incomprehensible violence”.