Archbishop of Canterbury set to highlight children 'surrounded by conflict' during Christmas sermon

By John Mercury December 25, 2023

The Pope used his sermon at Midnight Mass to offer his solidarity with people in the Middle East – and condemn the “futile logic of war”.

Francis, 87, told 6,500 people inside St Peter’s Basilica: “Our hearts are in Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace is once more rejected by the futile logic of war”.

He added that the “clash of arms today” prevents Jesus from “finding room in the world”.

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Pope Francis: ‘Our hearts are in Bethlehem’

In Bethlehem itself, Mass was held by Palestinian Christians who reflected on the war around them in Israel and Gaza.

The traditional Nativity scene in Manger Square was also surrounded by rubble and barbed wire.

A Christmas installation of a grotto with figures standing amid rubble surrounded by a razor wire, is displayed outside the Church of the Nativity, in support of Gaza, on Manger Square in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank December 24, 2023. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
The Nativity scene in Manger Square, Bethlehem

In Vatican City, recalling that Jesus was born during a census meant to reinforce King David’s power, the pontiff “the quest for worldly power and might, fame and glory, which measures everything in terms of success, results, numbers and figures, a world obsessed with achievement”.

By contrast, Jesus entered the world humbly. “Here, we see not a god of wrath and chastisement, but the God of mercy, who takes flesh and enters the world in weakness,” he said.

A pagan deity is linked to “power, worldly success and idolatry of consumerism,” the pope said.

“God, on the other hand, waves no magic want; he is no god of commerce who promises everything all at once. He does not save us by pushing a button, but draws near us, in order to change our world from within.”

File photo dated 21/04/19 of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby who has condemned the "utterly abhorrent" attacks by Hamas in Israel as he sent his sympathies to British Jews who he said are experiencing the "double jeopardy" of a potential rise in antisemitic sentiment as they mourn. Issue date: Wednesday October 11, 2023.

On Christmas Day the Archbishop of Canterbury will use his sermon to highlight the suffering of children caught up in the Israel-Hamas war.

The Most Rev Justin Welby is expected to say “the skies of Bethlehem are full of fear rather than angels and glory”, referring to Jesus Christ’s birthplace, which is now in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

He will then compare the turbulent conditions of Jesus’s birth with the plight of children today in the troubled region.

“Today a crying child is in a manger somewhere in the world, nobody willing or able to help his parents who desperately need shelter. Or in an incubator, in a hospital low on electricity, like al Ahli (hospital) in Gaza, surrounded by conflict,” he will say during his sermon at Canterbury Cathedral.

Also referring to Ukraine and Sudan, Mr Welby will say: “So many parts of the world seem beset with violence.”

He will add that a commitment to “serving, not in being served” was needed to resolve problems of climate change, terrorism, economic inequality and “the desperation and ambitions that drive more and more to migration”.

PA REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2023 File photo dated 06/05/23 - King Charles III, seated in St Edward's Chair, also known as the Coronation Chair, is crowned with St Edward's Crown by The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Justin Welby during his coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, London. The King is holding The Sovereign's…
The King crowned by The Archbishop of Canterbury at his coronation in May

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Addressing the King, the Archbishop will suggest the monarch is following the example of Jesus in providing leadership through service.

“Two thousand years later, at a coronation, it seemed natural and right for a king in royal robes to answer a child, ‘I come not to be served, but to serve’ – and we know it to be his intention, the right way to be a king,” Mr Welby will say, having conducted the coronation on 6 May.

The King is set to knight the Archbishop of Canterbury in the upcoming New Year Honours list, according to reports.


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