The Archbishop of Canterbury and the pope turn their attention to Gaza in their Christmas addresses.

“So many parts of the world appear to be plagued by violence,” Justin Welby is set to express as he reflects on the suffering of children in war. Both the archbishop of Canterbury and the pope are using their Christmas addresses to show support for Bethlehem and those affected by the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Speaking about the birthplace of Jesus Christ, which is currently in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Justin Welby will state that “the skies of Bethlehem are filled with fear rather than angels and glory.” He will also draw parallels between the turbulent circumstances of Jesus’s birth and the current plight of children in the war-stricken region.

“In today’s world, there is a crying child in a manger somewhere, with no one willing or able to provide shelter for the desperate parents,” Welby will say in a sermon at Canterbury Cathedral. “Or perhaps the child lies in an incubator, in a hospital with limited electricity, like Al-Ahli in Gaza, surrounded by conflict. Maybe the child is in a home still marked by the horrors of October 7th, with family members killed and a mother living in fear.”

In his sermon, he will also mention the victims of conflicts in Ukraine and Sudan, stating that “so many parts of the world seem to be plagued by violence.” He will emphasize the need for a commitment to service rather than being served in order to address issues of climate change, terrorism, economic inequality, and the desperation that drives migration.

The archbishop will also praise King Charles, whom he led in coronation this year, for his leadership through service. “Two thousand years later, during a coronation, it felt natural and appropriate for a king in royal attire to respond to a child, saying, ‘I do not come to be served, but to serve’ – and we know that this was his intention, the proper way to be a king,” he will affirm.

Reports have suggested that Welby will be knighted by the king for his “personal service” to the monarchy, becoming a member of the Royal Victorian Order in the New Year Honours List.

On Christmas Eve, Pope Francis also addressed the Israel-Hamas conflict in his homily and mourned the fact that Jesus’s message of peace was being overshadowed by the conflict in the land of his birth.

“This evening, our hearts are in Bethlehem, where once again the Prince of Peace is rejected due to the futile logic of war, due to the clash of arms that still prevents him from finding a place in the world,” Francis said during the service at St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pope has made appeals for a ceasefire in the conflict and has called for the release of all hostages held by Palestinian militant groups.

The 87-year-old pontiff spoke shortly after the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed to escalate the conflict further into Gaza following one of the worst days of losses for Israeli troops in their ground war.

During the papal mass, attended by 6,500 people at St. Peter’s Basilica and watched by more on screens in the square outside, Pope Francis proclaimed that peace and love were the true messages of Christmas. He urged people not to be consumed by worldly success and the “idolatry of consumerism.”

He also spoke about the “all-too-human thread that runs throughout history: the pursuit of worldly power and might, fame and glory, which measures everything in terms of success, outcomes, numbers, and figures – a world obsessed with achievement.”

Francis noted that while many might struggle to celebrate Christmas in “this judgmental and unforgiving world,” they should remember what happened on the first Christmas. “Tonight, love alters history,” he declared.

Pope Francis will deliver his Christmas Day “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message and blessing later on Monday.

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