Pope Francis warned at a solemn Christmas Eve Mass that the level of greed and hunger for power was such that some wanted to “consume even their neighbors”, apparently referring to the war in Ukraine.
Francis, celebrating the 10th Christmas of his pontificate, presided over a gathering of about 7,000 people in St. Peter’s Basilica after several years of limited attendance due to Covid.
Around 4,000 other people took part outside in St Peter’s Square on a relatively warm night.
As had been the case for the past few months, a knee ailment prevented Francis from standing for long periods of time, delegating the cardinal to be the main celebrant at the altar of Christendom’s largest church.
Sitting next to the altar for most of the Mass, he spoke about greed and consumption on different levels, asking people to look beyond the consumerism that has “packaged” the feast, rediscover its meaning and remember those who suffer from war and poverty. .
“Men and women in our world, in their hunger for wealth and power, are consuming even their neighbors, their brothers and sisters,” he said. “How many wars have we seen!” And in how many places is human dignity and freedom treated with contempt even today!”
Since Russia invaded its neighbor in February, Francis has spoken out against the war at almost every public event, condemning what he called atrocities and unprovoked aggression.
On Saturday night, he did not specifically mention Ukraine.
“As always, the main victims of this human greed are the weak and vulnerable,” he said.
“First of all, I think of the children who have been devoured by war, poverty and injustice.
Drawing a parallel between the baby Jesus born in a manger and today’s poverty, the pope said: “In the manger of rejection and discomfort, God is present.” He comes there because there we see the problem of our humanity: the indifference produced by the greedy rush to possess and consume.”
Earlier this month, the pope urged people to spend less on Christmas celebrations and gifts and send the difference to Ukrainians to help them get through the winter.
The Pope marked his 86th birthday last week and, aside from a knee ailment, appears to be in generally good health.
On Sunday, he is scheduled to deliver his biennial “Urbi et Orbi” (city and world) blessing to tens of thousands of people in the square below from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.