ROME ( Associated Press) – Pope Francis on Wednesday called for a “humble” Christmas this year, cutting back on spending to donate money saved to “the suffering people of Ukraine”.
During his weekly audience, Francis called for a “concrete spirit” of charity with Ukrainians during the holiday season.
“It’s good to celebrate Christmas and have parties, but let’s cut down on the Christmas shopping a little,” he said. “Let’s celebrate another humble Christmas, with more humble gifts, let’s send what we save to the Ukrainian people who need it.”
Francis has often spoken of the “martyrs” of Ukraine since Russia invaded the neighboring country on February 24. The Vatican has organized humanitarian deliveries in recent months, such as a clothing drive this month to bring thermal clothing to Ukrainians facing the winter chill with power and heating cuts.
“They are hungry, they are cold. And many die because there are no doctors or nurses at hand,” Francisco said. “Let’s not forget it. A Christmas, yes. At peace with the Lord, yes. But with Ukrainians at heart”.
Francis recently sparked a diplomatic row with Moscow when he blamed much of the “atrocity” in Russia’s war on Chechens and other minority militias, which he described as outside “Russian tradition.” The Russian ambassador to the Holy See made a formal protest following the remarks, and Russian officials said this week that the Vatican had not yet apologized.
In another Christmas gesture, the Vatican said this week that Francis had written to heads of government around the world to make a “gesture of clemency” with the prisoners. Francis argued that doing so would reveal an approach “to the grace of the Lord” in times of stress, injustice and strife.