“War brings only death and destruction.”
Pope Francis spoke those words of warning on Sunday, following the Angelus prayer.
Without referring to any specific countries, the Pope said there is a “terrible air of tension” in many parts of the world.
“I call upon all parties to fan the flame of dialogue and self-control, and to banish the shadow of enmity,” he said.
The Pope then invited everyone to pray in silence for a moment for this intention.
US – Iran tensions
Pope Francis’ appeal comes on the heels of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, after a US airstrike killed a top Iranian general in Iraq.
General Qassem Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force, the wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for military activities outside Iran.
His death on Friday in Baghdad raised the threat of direct confrontation between the US and Iran.
The Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Rafaël Sako, on Saturday expressed the Iraqi people’s shock at the event.
“It is deplorable that our country should be transformed into a place where scores are settled, rather than being a sovereign nation, capable of protecting its own land, its own wealth, its own citizens.”
He also called on all nations to exercise moderation, act reasonably, and sit down to seek understanding.
“Whoever accepts holiness as a gift of grace, cannot fail to make it bear fruit in concrete action in daily life, in the encounter with others”
Meanwhile, in his address ahead of the traditional Marian prayer on the second Sunday of the Christmas season, the Pope reflected on the meaning of Jesus’ birth.
Though the Church in some countries celebrates Epiphany on Sunday, 5 January – including in the United States – the Vatican and Italy mark the holy day on its traditional date, 6 January.
Incarnation of the Word
The Pope said the Prologue to John’s Gospel show us that the eternal Word – the Son of God – “became flesh”.
“Not only did He come to dwell among the people, but He became one of the people, one of us!” he said.
Pope Francis said the Incarnation of the Word means that we are now able to model our lives after a divine Person who took on our flesh, rather than seeking to follow an abstract principle like the law or an institution.
Making us children of God
The Pope went on to say that St Paul blesses God for His plan of love realized in Jesus Christ.
“In this plan,” said Pope Francis, “each of us finds our fundamental vocation: we are predestined to be children of God through Jesus Christ. The Son of God became man to make us, men and women, sons of God.”
We contemplate our filial relationship with the Father in the Nativity scene, said the Pope. And the day’s liturgy assures us, he continued, that the Gospel of Christ is “the full revelation of God’s plan for humanity”, and not some “fable, myth, or edifying story”.
To be holy in love
Pope Francis said we are faced with a question: “What concrete project has the Lord placed in me, as He continues to make His birth present among us?”
St Paul, he noted, gives us the answer to the meaning of Christmas. “God has chosen us to be holy and without blemish before him in charity.”
“If the Lord continues to come among us and to give us the gift of His Word, it is so that each of us can respond to this call: to become saints in love.”
For the good of our neighbor
Holiness, concluded Pope Francis, means “belonging to God, communion with Him, and becoming a manifestation of His infinite goodness.”
“Whoever accepts holiness as a gift of grace,” he said, “cannot fail to make it bear fruit in concrete action in daily life, in the encounter with others.”
Acting in love, said the Pope, makes us “immaculate”, going on to explain what he meant.
“Immaculate not in the sense that I remove a stain. Immaculate in the sense that God enters into us. The gratuitous gift of God enters into us, and we care for it and give it to others.”
And Pope Francis asked the Virgin Mary to “help us welcome with joy and gratitude the divine plan of love realized in Jesus Christ.”