Pope Francis used the Christmas Mass at St. Peter's Basilica as a reminder of peace. He recalled the Christmas message of “peace on earth.” Considering the war in the Middle East, Francis added: “Our hearts are this evening in Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace is still rejected by the destructive logic of war, by the sound of weapons.”
This year, Christmas is particularly affected by the wars in the Gaza Strip and Ukraine.
Our hearts are tonight in Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace is still driven away by the destructive logic of war, by the sound of weapons.
The Vatican said about 7,000 worshipers attended St. Peter's Basilica. Also, thousands of people watched the events in St. Peter's Square in front of the church on big screens.
After Mass on Christmas Eve, Pope Francis will read his traditional Christmas message at the Vatican at 12 noon on Christmas Day, Monday. From the loggia above the entrances of St. Peter's Basilica, the head of the Roman Catholic Church gives the blessing “Urbi et Arbi” to the city and the world. Tens of thousands of faithful are expected to flock to St. Peter's Square.
War in the Holy Land
The city, which normally gathers tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world at Christmas, has been deserted due to the war and the Israeli-imposed lockdown. The large Christmas tree that usually stands in front of the Church of the Nativity during Advent is missing. Church leaders in Jerusalem had already decided in November that there would be no Christmas decorations in the Holy Land because of the war.
Given the war in Gaza, Jerusalem's Latin Patriarchate's traditional Christmas procession was on a smaller scale. It started from the Jaffa Gate in the historic Old City of Jerusalem to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on the West Bank. Cardinal Pierbattista Pisaballa, the highest representative of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, accompanied only a few Franciscans and a few faithful on the short journey to the town, a few kilometers away.
In the historic city of Bethlehem, midnight Mass is said in the Church of the Nativity. Under the altar, according to tradition, Jesus Christ was born 2,000 years ago.
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