…says the world in ‘a grave famine of peace’

Catholic Pontiff Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for an end to the “senseless” war in Ukraine as well as other conflicts.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, in his traditional Christmas Day “Urbi et Orbi” message at the Vatican, also called for an end to the use of food as a weapon of war.

The war in Ukraine began 24 February 2022 when Russia invaded the country and is estimated to have left tens of thousands dead on both sides and caused Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II.

Speaking just hours after air raid sirens wailed across Ukraine and a day after Ukrainian officials said a Russian attack on the recently liberated city of Kherson killed at least 10 people and wounded dozens, the Pope urged people to look beyond the “shallow holiday glitter” and help the homeless, immigrants, refugees and the poor in their midst seeking comfort, warmth and food.

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

“Let us also see the faces of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters who are experiencing this Christmas in the dark and cold, far from their homes due to the devastation caused by 10 months of war,” he said.

The Pope, who addressed tens of thousands of people from the central balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica, prayed the Lord to “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”.

The 86-year-old pontiff condemned the use of food as a weapon of war, saying the war in Ukraine had put millions at risk of famine, including Afghanistan and countries in the Horn of Africa.

The Pope said the Ukraine conflict should not diminish concern for people whose lives have been devastated by other conflicts or humanitarian crises, including Syria, Myanmar, Iran, Haiti, the Sahel region of Africa, among others.

“We know that every war causes hunger and exploits food as a weapon,” he said, lamenting what he described as “a grave famine of peace”.

“[Let us] starting with those who hold political responsibilities, commit ourselves to making food solely an instrument of peace,” he said.

As many sat around “a well-spread table”, huge amounts of food daily go to waste and resources are spent on weapons, he said.

The Pope also called for a resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land, the place of Jesus’ birth.

This year has seen the worst levels of violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in more than a decade, with at least 150 Palestinians and more than 20 Israelis killed.