In a strongly worded homily, Pope Francis is calling Christmas a “sham” in the face of recent terrorist attacks and wars.
“Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, lighted Christmas trees and manger scenes… it’s all a sham,” he said at Mass in his chapel Thursday at the Santa Marta residence where he lives in the Vatican.
“The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path. There are wars today everywhere, and hate,” he said.
“A war can be justified, so to speak, with many, many reasons, but when all the world is at war, piecemeal though that war may be – a little here, a little there – there is no justification,” he said.
“We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it,” the pope said.
“God weeps, Jesus weeps,” he added.
Pope Francis was speaking less than a week after the brutal November 13 Paris attacks, which left 130 dead, as well as the double suicide bombing in Lebanon on November 12 and the bombing of a Russian Metrojet airliner over Egypt on October 31.
Ironically, the Vatican had just put up a massive Christmas tree in the center of Saint Peter’s Square, which will be decorated on December 8 for the start of the Vatican’s Holy Year with Christmas ornaments made by children from cancer wards in different Italian hospitals.
In front of the tree, a life-size nativity scene will include 24 wooden figures, with sculptures of ordinary people surrounding Mary, Joseph, the wise men, shepherds, and the baby Jesus.
Around the Vatican City, the atmosphere is anything but festive. Italy has deployed an additional 700 troops to the 1,300 already involved in a highly visible “safe streets” operation in Rome.
Along with the Vatican, soldiers are patrolling the Rome’s train stations, subway system and airports, as well as at major shopping districts.
Security measures have been beefed-up as Rome is preparing to host the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which begins December 12 and is expected to draw many millions of pilgrims.
Pope Francis also spoke of the “innocent victims” of war and also condemned arms dealers for their role in world conflicts.
“What shall remain in the wake of this war, in the midst of which we are living now?” he asked. “What shall remain? Ruins, thousands of children without education, so many innocent victims, and lots of money in the pockets of arms dealers.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome