VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With a soft and raspy voice, Pope Francis began his weekly general audience by making the sign of the cross and explaining that “I’m still not well with this flu, and my voice isn’t great,” so he would have an aide read his catechesis and greetings.
The gathering, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall Nov. 29, was held the morning after the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had accepted his doctors’ advice and canceled plans to travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 1-3 to join world leaders in addressing COP28, the U.N. climate conference.
Before the general audience, the pope met briefly with members of the Scottish soccer team Celtic F.C. There, too, he apologized for having an aide read his prepared text. “With this cold,” he said, “I can’t speak much, but I’m better than yesterday.”
The pope’s main general audience talk, part of a yearlong series about evangelization, was read by Msgr. Filippo Ciampanelli, an official of the Vatican Secretariat of State.
But at the end of the audience, the pope took the microphone back to urge people to pray for peace.
“Let’s continue to pray for the serious situation in Israel and Palestine. Peace, please, peace,” the pope said. “I hope that the cease-fire in Gaza continues so that all the hostages (taken by Hamas) are released, and access is allowed for the necessary humanitarian aid” in Gaza.
Pope Francis, who speaks regularly by telephone with priests at Holy Family parish in Gaza City, told people at the audience, “I’ve heard from the parish there. There is a lack of water, a lack of bread. The people are suffering. The simple people. The people are suffering, not those who are making the war. We ask for peace.”
“And speaking of peace, let’s not forget the dear Ukrainian people who still are suffering so much because of the war,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, war is always a defeat. Everyone loses. Well, not everyone; there is one group that earns a lot — those who manufacture weapons. They make a lot off the death of others.”
Pope Francis also used the opportunity to thank a group of circus performers — acrobats, skaters, clowns and jugglers — who had entertained the pope and the crowd for a few minutes. They train hard and bring joy to people, the pope said.
In his main talk, read by Msgr. Ciampanelli, Pope Francis focused on how salvation in Jesus is as necessary as ever and that people today need to hear the Gospel proclaimed even if society tries to convince them that “God is insignificant and useless.”
Simply repeating formulaic expressions of faith will convince no one, the pope said. And neither will shouting.
“A truth does not become more credible because one raises one’s voice in speaking it, but because it is witnessed with one’s life,” the pope’s text said.