Pope’s plea for peace amidst global turmoil: Christmas celebrations overshadowed by war

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

In a world marred by conflict, Pope Francis ushered in Christmas with a heartfelt call for peace, acknowledging the grim shadows cast by Israel’s clash with Hamas and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The festive spirit, however, found a haven in the hearts of children globally, who tracked Santa and his reindeer on a 3-D interactive website.

Revellers worldwide embraced holiday cheer, donning Santa’s red caps in diverse activities, from city races in Skopje to surfing in Florida and jogging through Parisian woods. Yet, amidst the festivities, the Pope’s Christmas Eve mass struck a somber note, expressing solidarity with those affected by war.

The Pope alluded to the cancellation of Bethlehem’s annual celebrations, replaced only by a few festive lights.

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“Tonight, our hearts are in Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace is once more rejected by the futile logic of war.”

In the midst of the turmoil, a huge Palestinian flag unfurled in Bethlehem with a plea for a Gaza ceasefire, highlighting the harsh reality faced by the region. Nicole Najjar, an 18 year old student made a poignant remark.

“It’s really hard to celebrate while our people are dying.”

The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, emphasised the need to move beyond mere ceasefires.

“Violence generates only violence.”

Prayers and peace

Meanwhile, in Syria, Christmas celebrations were limited to prayers in solidarity with Palestinians, echoing the global call for peace.

Ukraine, celebrating Christmas on December 25 for the first time, marked a departure from the traditional Orthodox date as a deliberate snub to Moscow. In Odesa, churchgoers gathered in a cathedral adorned with festive decor, expressing a desire to celebrate Christmas far away from Moscow, reported Bangkok Post.

Southern Turkey, still reeling from a devastating earthquake, saw faithful celebrating mass amidst the ruins of a church. Vehbi Tadrasgil, who lost his family in the quake, reflected on the bittersweet occasion.

“I hope that their souls are here, I am certain that our prayers rise to them.”

In Syria’s cities, Christmas cheer was scarce, with main churches opting for prayers in solidarity with those facing the horrors of war in Gaza. Despite the challenges, Father Yumurta in Samandag expressed a spirit of resilience.

“With the birth of the child Jesus, a new life begins. For us too, here, it will be a new beginning.”

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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