Pope Francis used his Christmas Eve Mass in St Peter’s Basilica to remind followers about the importance of peace with the war on Gaza still raging.
The head of the approximately 1.3 billion Catholics reminded the faithful of the Christmas message “peace on Earth” during a service in the Vatican on Sunday evening.
In relation to the war in the Middle East, Francis said: “Our hearts are in Bethlehem tonight, where the prince of peace is still rejected by the doomed logic of war, by the clamour of weapons.”
This year’s Christmas holiday is overshadowed for many by the wars in the Gaza Strip and Ukraine.
According to the Vatican, around 7,000 people took part in the service in St Peter’s Basilica.
Thousands also followed the events on St Peter’s Square in front of the church on large screens.
On Monday, Pope Francis will give his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica.
Christmas is being celebrated very quietly in the Holy Land this year due to the war in Gaza.
In Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – the birthplace of Jesus Christ, according to the Bible – there are hardly any pilgrims or tourists, and no Christmas trees or other major decorations.
Access to the city is heavily restricted by Israeli military roadblocks.