Archbishop of Canterbury to highlight suffering in Israel-Gaza war in Christmas Day sermon

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The Archbishop of Canterbury will say “so many parts of the world seem beset with violence”
By Sean Seddon
BBC News

The Archbishop of Canterbury will speak about children caught up in the Israel-Gaza war in his Christmas Day sermon.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby is expected to say the “skies of Bethlehem are full of fear rather than angels and glory” during a service at Canterbury Cathedral on Monday morning.

He will also reference the victims of violence in Ukraine and Sudan.

Pope Francis has also appealed for peace against the “futile logic of war” during Christmas Eve mass.

The Pope told worshippers at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican: “Tonight, our hearts are in Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace is once more rejected by the futile logic of war, by the clash of arms that even today prevents him from finding room in the world.”

Mr Welby is expected to compare the turbulent background of Jesus’ upbringing with the struggles of children in the region today.

He will say: “Today a crying child is in a manger somewhere in the world, nobody willing or able to help his parents who desperately need shelter.

“Or in an incubator, in a hospital low on electricity, like Al-Ahli [hospital] in Gaza, surrounded by conflict.

Pope Francis called for an end to the “clash of arms” in the Middle East

“Maybe he lies in a house that still bears the marks of the horrors of 7 October, with family members killed, and a mother who feared for her life.”

On 7 October, the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which governs Gaza, led a massive attack on Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking about 240 back to Gaza as hostages. Israel launched a war against it in response, which has killed more than 20,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

The archbishop will say that a commitment to “serving, not in being served” is needed to resolve problems of climate change, terrorism, economic inequality and “the desperation and ambitions that drive more and more to migration”.

Jesus “confronts our cruelty with his compassion” and “responds to our selfishness with service”, Mr Welby will say.

He will also pay tribute to King Charles III, whose coronation he led in May 2023, for pursuing “the right way to be king”.

“Two thousand years later, at a coronation, it seemed natural and right for a king in royal robes to answer a child, ‘I come not to be served, but to serve’ – and we know it to be his intention, the right way to be a king.”

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