Pope Francis suggested on Wednesday that people celebrate “a more humble Christmas” this year by spending less on gifts and celebrations and sending the difference to Ukrainians in need.
Speaking at the end of his weekly general audience, Francis drew attention to the suffering of the “battered Ukrainian people” as he has done repeatedly since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. Ukraine is suffering “very much, very much,” he said.
Millions of Ukrainians have been intermittently left without power, heat and water as Russia continues to attack civilian infrastructure in the harsh winter months.
Although celebrating Christmas is important, he said, “let’s have a humbler Christmas, with humbler gifts, sending what we save to the Ukrainian people who need it.” People in the country are hungry and cold, and many are dying amid a shortage of doctors and nurses, he said.
“Let us not forget Christmas,” Francis said, “but with the people of Ukraine in our hearts, and let us offer concrete signs of help for them.”
In September, Francis said it was morally acceptable for countries to provide weapons to Ukraine. Self-defense in the face of aggression is “not only lawful, but also an expression of love of country,” he said.
The comments came after the Vatican explicitly said for the first time in August that Russia was the aggressor in the war. Critics had said that Francis risked his moral authority by previously not calling out President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia by name as the Vatican upheld longstanding policy not to pick sides in a conflict to better preserve the church’s chances of playing a constructive role in potential peace talks.