1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Christmas: Pope Francis offers prayers for Ukraine

December 25, 2022

The head of the Catholic Church addressed the war in Ukraine as part of his traditional address. After two years of COVID restrictions, thousands gathered in St Peter's Square.

Pope Francis waves as he delivers his traditional Christmas Day Urbi et Orbi message
Pope Francis waves as he delivers his traditional Christmas Day Urbi et Orbi messageImage: Yara Nardi/REUTERS

Thousands of people convened in St. Peter's Square in Rome on Sunday to hear Pope Francis deliver his Christmas Day speech.

The 86-year-old addressed the war in Ukraine while offering prayers for the war-torn country from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

"May the Lord 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!" he said.

The pope condemned the use of "food as a weapon" in war. "We know that every war causes hunger and exploits food as a weapon... [let us], starting with those who hold political responsibilities, commit ourselves to making food solely an instrument of peace," he said.

Pope Francis said the war in Ukraine should not diminish concern for people affected by conflicts or humanitarian crises elsewhere, including Syria, Myanmar, Iran, Haiti and the Sahel region of Africa. He also called for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. 

"Our time is experiencing a grave famine of peace..." he said.

Criticism over diplomatic stance

Pope Francis has called consistently for peace in the wake of Russia's invasion of its neighbor, but has trod carefully in order to maintain a delicate dialogue with Moscow.

Francis has been criticized in some quarters for not being more explicit in blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for the conflict.

In June, the pope said the war was "perhaps somehow either provoked or not prevented."

The head of the Catholic Church has kept the human toll of the war at the forefront of his messages, such as earlier this month when he offered prayers for Ukraine, which he said was "tormented."

COVID restrictions eased

In 2020, Francis delivered his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" blessing ("to the city and the world") virtually from a lectern inside the Vatican due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2021, a restricted gathering was in place but this year thousands of believers are expected to gather in the Italian capital, to hear the annual message, which began at noon local time (1100 GMT).

jsi/ar (AFP, dpa)