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Pope Francis mourns the rejection of peace and 'futile logic of war' this Christmas

Pope Francis presides over Christmas eve Mass, at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday Dec. 24, 2023.
Gregorio Borgia
/
AP
Pope Francis presides over Christmas eve Mass, at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday Dec. 24, 2023.

During his Christmas Mass address from inside the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis said his heart is with those suffering in Bethlehem, where the good of God is being muffled by the conflict in Gaza.

"Tonight, our hearts are in Bethlehem," Francis said on Sunday, "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."

The 87-year-old leader's address began with, "A census of the whole Earth," where he drew comparisons between emperors and God. He talked about how the powerful seek to make a name for themselves in history, while "the King of history chooses the way of littleness," which teed up his next point.

An emperor's census of the whole Earth, "Manifests the all-too-human threat that runs through history: the quest for worldly power and might, fame and glory," Francis said. But God, the pope said, "Does not eliminate injustice from above by a show of power, but from below, by a show of love."

The pope has pleaded multiple times for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas since the conflict erupted in early October.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his own address Sunday, published on X, formerly known as Twitter, told the world Israel's war against "barbarians" would prevail. The prime minister's address came at the end of a weekend of bloodshed for Israeli forces, which lost 14 soldiers on Friday and Saturday while fighting in Gaza.

Meanwhile in Bethlehem, approximately 1,500 miles away from the Vatican, Christmas is cancelled. Manger Square — the birthplace of Jesus located in the West Bank — is typically teeming with tourists, but the festivities were shut down this year, due to the war, the Associated Press reported.

The violence has already claimed the lives of more than 20,000 Palestinian lives, as well as 153 Israili soldiers and 1,200 Israeli civilians, since the fighting began on Oct. 7.

Hana Haniyeh, the mayor of Bethlehem, also delivered a Christmas message.

"Our message every year on Christmas is one of peace and love," she told a crowd. "But this year it's a message of sadness, grief and anger in front of the international community with what is happening and going on in the Gaza Strip."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.