Pope Francis delivered a powerful Christmas Day message from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, denouncing the weapons industry and its role in perpetuating conflicts worldwide. He specifically addressed the ongoing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, lamenting the recent attack by Hamas in southern Israel and calling for the release of hostages. The pontiff urged an end to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and appealed for humanitarian aid to reach those in need.
In his annual “Urbi et Orbi” speech, which translates to “To the City and the World,” Pope Francis dedicated his blessings to a plea for peace globally. Reflecting on the biblical story of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, he acknowledged the current state of sorrow and silence in the region. The Pope’s message extended beyond the Middle East, touching on various global conflicts, from Armenia and Azerbaijan to Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, South Sudan, Congo, and the Korean peninsula. He called for humanitarian initiatives, dialogue, and enhanced security to prevail over violence and death.
Pope Francis emphasized the need for governments and people of goodwill, especially in the Americas, to address the concerning issue of migration. He condemned the actions of “unscrupulous traffickers” who exploit individuals seeking a better life and called for collective efforts to tackle this troubling phenomenon.
A significant portion of the Pope’s address was dedicated to criticizing the weapons industry, which he accused of fueling conflicts worldwide with insufficient public attention. He urged greater discourse and scrutiny on the subject to expose the interests and profits behind the scenes of war. Pope Francis questioned the possibility of achieving peace when arms production, sales, and trade continue to escalate.
“It should be talked about and written about, so as to bring to light the interests and the profits that move the puppet strings of war,” he said. “And how can we even speak of peace when arms production, sales, and trade are on the rise?”
This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has denounced the weapons industry, labeling its participants as “merchants of death.” He has previously asserted that contemporary wars, such as the one in Ukraine, serve as testing grounds for new weapons or a means to deplete existing stockpiles.
Turning his attention to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Pope called for a resolution through “sincere and persevering dialogue between the parties, sustained by strong political will and the support of the international community.” Vatican officials estimated that approximately 70,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to witness Francis’ noonday speech and blessing, with some attendees displaying Palestinian and Ukrainian flags.
While Pope Francis, at 87 years old, appeared in good spirits during the Christmas Day address, his recent bout of bronchitis was evident as he occasionally coughed and seemed out of breath. Despite this, he is expected to deliver a blessing on the feast of St. Stephen and preside over a New Year’s Eve vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica, followed by Mass the next day, rounding out the holiday season.