Pope Francis calls on world to consider children 'longing for peace' in Christmas address

Pontiff speaks of urgent need to end war in Ukraine but underlines importance of remembering other conflicts causing immense suffering

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Pope Francis has said the world is suffering from a “famine of peace” in his Christmas address, known as the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) blessing and message of his pontificate.

He was speaking from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica, the same spot from which he first appeared as Pope when he was elected on March 13, 2013.

Calling for an end to the war in Ukraine, where 10 months of violence has caused a global energy and food inflation crisis, as well as resulting in at least 200,000 military casualties alone, Pope Francis described the conflict as “senseless”.

“May the Lord inspire us to offer concrete gestures of solidarity to assist all those who are suffering, and may he enlighten the minds of those who have the power to silence the thunder of weapons and put an immediate end to this senseless war,” Pope Francis said.

But he also stressed it was important for people to remember the many other conflicts around the world and to consider in their prayers the suffering of people in Iran, Syria, the Sahel and Haiti. He urged further dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, amid the worst year for violence since 2015 in the decades-long conflict.

The Pope said: “Let us see the faces of all those children who, everywhere in the world, long for peace.”

On Christmas Eve, Pope Francis also called for an end to violence in the world, highlighting how greed and lust for power was a driving force in unnecessary wars.

“As always, the principal victims of this human greed are the weak and the vulnerable,” he said, denouncing “a world ravenous for money, power and pleasure”.

Tying in with this theme, Pope Francis said in his Christmas address that there was too much greed and waste while many went hungry.

“On this day, as we sit around a well-spread table, may we not avert our gaze from Bethlehem, a town whose name means ‘house of bread', but think of all those, especially the children, who go hungry while huge amounts of food daily go to waste and resources are being spent on weapons,” he said.

“The war in Ukraine has further aggravated this situation, putting entire peoples at risk of famine, especially in Afghanistan and in the countries of the Horn of Africa.”

Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine sent shockwaves through global food markets. The two countries combined account for around 20 per cent of global wheat exports.

Ukraine is sometimes called “the breadbasket of Europe” and for months Russia was accused of stopping grain exports from occupied southern ports. A series of deals have been put in place to resume exports but harvests across Ukraine are significantly worse than before the conflict.

The war has also caused a spike in energy prices amid US and European sanctions on Russia's oil and gas industry.

Some of the most vulnerable countries to the food and fuel shocks included those almost entirely dependent on imports, including Sri Lanka and Jordan, where rising fuel prices have caused street protests, Egypt, which imports almost all of its wheat requirements and Pakistan, which is already burdened by high debt.

Updated: December 25, 2022, 2:46 PM
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