Rome Newsroom, Dec 21, 2022 / 04:28 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has urged Catholics not to forget the many children in Ukraine this Christmas who are suffering without electricity and heating amid the war.
Speaking near a large nativity scene in Paul VI Hall on Dec. 21, the pope recalled an encounter that he had with Ukrainian war refugees in which the children seemed unable to smile.
“On this feast of God becoming a child, let us think of Ukrainian children. … These children bear the tragedy of that war which is so inhuman, so harsh,” he said.
“Let us think of the Ukrainian people this Christmas, without electricity, without heating, without the main things necessary to survive, and let us pray to the Lord to bring them peace as soon as possible.”
In his last general audience before Christmas, Pope Francis said, “Jesus reveals a God who is full of compassion and tenderness.”
He said: “We have a tender, affectionate Father who loves us, who has always loved us. When we experience this, our heart melts and doubts, fears and feelings of unworthiness are dissolved. This love is irresistible.”
The pope underlined that one could experience this tenderness and develop a close “friendship with God” by reading the Bible.
“For the believer, the Word of God is not simply a text to read. It is a living presence, a work of the Holy Spirit that comforts, instructs, gives light, strength, refreshment, and a zest for life,” Pope Francis said.
“Let us pick up the Gospel, take the Bible in our hands – 5 minutes a day … Carry a pocket-size Gospel with you, in your purse, and when you are traveling, read it a bit. Read a small passage during the day. Allow the Word of God to draw near to your heart. Do this and you will see how your lives will change, with the proximity of the Word of God,” he said.
The pope said, “God’s voice resounds in stillness, attentiveness, and silence.” He added that it is “only in peace that we can enter profoundly into ourselves and recognize the authentic desires the Lord has placed in our hearts.”
“Many times it is not easy to enter into that peace of heart because we are so busy with this, that and the other, the entire day,” he said. “But, please, calm yourself down a little bit, enter into yourself, within yourself. Stop for two minutes. When we allow ourselves to be calm, God’s voice comes immediately. He is waiting for us to do this.“
Pope Francis gave this reflection as part of his weekly catechetical series on discernment. He said that “every day, whether we want to or not, we always perform acts of discernment concerning what we eat, read, at work, in our relationships, everything.”
“Life always presents choices to us, and if we do not make conscious choices, in the end it is life that chooses for us, taking us where we do not want to go.”
Among those who greeted the pope at the end of the general audience were men dressed as the three kings who followed the star to Bethlehem.
Pope Francis said: “May the birth of the Savior bring you all interior consolation and give you the joy of feeling loved by the God who became a child.”
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