ROME (AP) — Pope Francis called Wednesday for a “humble” Christmas this year, with savings from reduced spending on gifts donated to help the “suffering people of Ukraine.” Francis called for “concrete gestures” of charity for Ukrainians this holiday season during his weekly general audience.
“It’s nice to celebrate Christmas and have parties, but let’s lower the level of Christmas spending a bit,” he said. “Let’s make a more humble Christmas, with more humble gifts, and let’s send what we save to the people of Ukraine who need it.”
Francis has spoken out frequently about the “martyred” people of Ukraine ever since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. The Vatican has organized humanitarian deliveries over recent months, including a clothing drive this month to bring thermal wear to Ukrainians suffering the winter cold with reduced heating and electricity.
“They are hungry, they are cold, so many die for lack of doctors and nurses,” Francis said. “Let’s not forget them. Christmas yes, in peace and with the Lord, yes. But with Ukrainians in the heart.”
Francis recently sparked a new diplomatic row with Moscow when he blamed most of the “cruelty” in Russia’s war on Chechen and other minority fighters, who he said were not of “the Russian tradition.” Russia’s ambassador to the Holy See lodged a formal protest with the Holy See after the remarks, and Russian officials said this week the Vatican hadn’t yet apologized.
In another Christmas gesture, the Vatican said this week that Francis had sent letters to heads of state around the globe asking them to undertake a “gesture of clemency” for eligible prisoners. Francis reasoned that doing so could show “an opening to the grace of the Lord in a time marked by tensions, injustices and conflicts.”