Israeli bombardment in Gaza  (AFP or licensors)

By Michele Raviart & Linda Bordoni

Dec 7 2023

Concluding the catechesis at the General Audience, Pope Francis reiterated his plea for prayers for all those who are suffering due to conflicts across the world.

As he continues to recover from bronchitis that forced him to put off a scheduled journey to Dubai to participate in the UN Climate Conference and that has seen him entrust the words of his catecheses to Vatican officials, speaking personally Pope Francis reaffirmed his closeness to those who are suffering from war in many countries across the globe.

“Let’s not forget to pray for those who suffer the tragedy of war, in particular the peoples of Ukraine, Israel, and Palestine,” he said.

Speaking after the Wednesday General Audience – read, on his behalf by Msgr Filippo Ciampanelli – the Pope reiterated his belief that “War is always a defeat. No one has anything to gain from it, it is a defeat for everyone, except for weapons manufacturers.”

More than 16,200 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, have been killed in an Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip unleased on Oct 7. The offensive is in retaliation for a rampage by Hamas militants who killed 1,200 Israelis and abducted 240 others. Israel says it is targeting Hamas infrastructure in Gaza and accuses the organization of using civilians as human shields. A seven-day truce saw the release of some 100 hostages. Still, the collapse of the truce over the weekend, and a renewed Israeli offensive has given way to the fiercest fighting in five weeks of military operations against Hamas militants.

Day of Prayer for Church in the East

During his greetings to the Polish pilgrims present for the Audience, the Pope also recalled that next Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, the Church in Poland will observe the Day of Prayer and Material Help to the Church in the East.

He expressed his thanks to “all those who support the Church in that region with their prayers and offerings, especially martyred Ukraine. “

Fierce fighting continues between Russian forces and Ukraine’s military with increased attacks around Bakhmut and other areas of the east. It is estimated that at least 10,000 civilians, including over 560 children, have been killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by the fighting.

A recent estimate of Russian losses said the Russian military probably suffered losses of about 70,000 soldiers killed since the start of the conflict.

Victims of Hurricane Otis

The Pope‘s attention was also on those affected by a devastating hurricane over a month ago in Mexico.

More than 48 people were confirmed dead and 48 missing after the massive hurricane that struck Acapulco and a nearby village on Oct 25. Thousands of families have been affected and rebuilding is expected to take at least 10 years.

Addressing members of the “Fundacion Telethon“ following the General Audience, he invited them to “collaborate for the victims of Acapulco“ hard-hit by Hurricane Otis more than a month ago, “and not to neglect to include all persons with disabilities in Mexico“.

“Let’s defend the dignity of every person,“ he said.

Immaculate Conception

As we approach the feast of the Immaculate Conception on Dec 8, the Holy Father reminded the faithful of how the Virgin Mary “believed in God‘s love and responded with her ‘Yes’.“

“Learn from her how to fully trust in the Lord,“ he concluded, “to give witness to the common good and evangelical love.“ – Vatican News