Pope calls on people to spend less on Christmas – and give the money you save to those in war-ravaged Ukraine
- Pope called for ‘concrete gestures’ of charity for Ukrainians over festive period
- Francis said people should have ‘more humble Christmas’ and donate to Ukraine
- In recent months, Francis has grown increasingly critical of Vladimir Putin’s on-going invasion of Ukraine, which was launched on February 24
Pope Francis today called on people to spend less on Christmas presents and celebrations, and donate the money saved to those in war-ravaged Ukraine instead.
The pontiff, 85, called for ‘concrete gestures’ of charity for Ukrainians over the festive period during his weekly general audience at the Vatican.
‘It is nice to celebrate Christmas and have parties but let’s lower the level of Christmas spending a bit,’ Francis said.
‘Let’s have a more humble Christmas, with more humble gifts. Let’s send what we save to the Ukrainian people, who need it,’ he said.
Pope Francis today (pictured in the Vatican) called on people to spend less on Christmas presents and celebrations, and donate the money saved to those in war-ravaged Ukraine
Nearly 10 months into the war, hardship from the fighting has compounded as winter sets in and Russia pounds Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
Missile strikes have been crippling – resulting in the periodic loss of electricity, heating, water and phone service across swathes of Ukraine.
The Ukrainians ‘are suffering so much. They are hungry, cold. So many people are dying because there are no doctors or nurses,’ the pope said.
‘Let’s not forget them. Christmas, yes, in peace and with the Lord, yes, but with Ukrainians in the heart.’
In recent months, Francis has grown increasingly critical of Vladimir Putin’s on-going invasion of Ukraine, which was launched on February 24.
The Vatican has organised humanitarian deliveries over recent months, including a clothing drive to send thermal wear to Ukrainians suffering the winter cold with reduced heating and electricity.
Francis recently sparked a new diplomatic row with Moscow when he blamed most of the ‘cruelty’ in Russia’s war on Chechen and other minority fighters, who he said were not of ‘the Russian tradition’.
Russia’s ambassador to the Holy See lodged a formal protest after the remarks, and Russian officials said this week the Vatican has not yet apologised.
In another Christmas gesture, the Vatican said this week Francis has sent letters to heads of state around the globe asking them to undertake a ‘gesture of clemency’ for eligible prisoners.
Pictured: Damaged buildings in Irpin, Kyiv, Ukraine on December 13
Francis reasoned that doing so could show ‘an opening to the grace of the Lord in a time marked by tensions, injustices and conflicts’.
Meanwhile, Francis on Sunday offered a harrowing vision of the future, saying he has seen signs of an even darker time ahead for humanity.
He said on Sunday that he has a dire vision for the world with ‘omens of even greater destruction and desolation’.
In his homily, the pontiff said: ‘It is a bitter time, filled with the rumbling of war, growing injustice, famine, poverty and suffering,’ but at this ‘bleak and disconcerting’ time, there are ‘omens of even greater destruction and desolation’.
He added that at Christmas, God’s ‘divine love and his coming down to us tell us that this too is a propitious time of salvation, in which the Lord, through the Virgin Mother, continues to give us his Son’.
Pictured: A destroyed tank on the outskirts of the village of Kamyanka near Izyum, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on December 13
He urged the Vatican congregation ‘to get involved with each other without delay, to go out to meet our brothers and sisters who have been forgotten and discarded by our consumerist and indifferent societies’.
Francis has spoken out frequently on Putin’s ‘monstrosity’ following his invasion of Ukraine.
In September, Francis said Ukraine was being ‘martyred’ and slammed Putin’s ‘monstrosity’. That same month, the pope revealed he had been involved in efforts to release 300 Ukrainian prisoners of war held by Russia.
Speaking at the time, he said he received ‘Ukrainian emissaries’ at the Vatican, including a military chief who brought with him a list ‘of more than 300 prisoners’.
He made the remarks on September 15, a week before Russia and Ukraine carried out an unexpected prisoner swap involving almost 300 people – the largest since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
The pope said: ‘They asked me to do something so that an exchange could be made. I immediately called the Russian ambassador to see if something could be done, if an exchange of prisoners could be expedited.’
Earlier this month, Russia was suspected of retaliating against the pope’s comments.
The official Vatican website was taken offline on November 30 following an apparent hacking attack, the Holy See said.
‘Technical investigations are ongoing due to abnormal attempts to access the site,’ Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said, without giving any further information.
The suspected hack came a day after Moscow criticised Pope Francis’s condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia lodged a formal protest with the Vatican over Francis’ condemnation, in which the pontiff blamed most of the cruelty on Chechens and other minorities in an apparent effort to spare ethnic Russian troops from criticism.
Francis defended his usual reluctance to call out President Vladimir Putin by name, saying it was clear Ukraine is the ‘martyred’ victim in the war.
But he also said that, while it was the Russian state that invaded Ukraine, ‘Generally, the cruellest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryats and so on.’
Since the war began in February, thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed by Russian soldiers. Moscow has been accused of carrying out war crimes against the Ukrainian people, with Kyiv discovering several mass graves.
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