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Pope calls for peace in holiday message
(AP)
Updated: 2005-12-26 08:55

Pope Benedict XVI marked his first Christmas as pope Sunday, calling for concrete actions to back up "signs of hope" in the Middle East and urging peace in Darfur, Sudan and the Korean peninsula.

Thousands of cheering tourists and pilgrims braved a chilly downpour to hear Benedict's message, delivered from the same balcony of St. Peter's Basilica where he uttered his first public words as pope.

Benedict continued the tradition of Pope John Paul II by using the "Urbi et Orbi" message Latin for "to the city and to the world" to review conditions around the world and lament violence and poverty. Like John Paul, he delighted the crowd with Christmas greetings in more than 30 languages.

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead the midnight mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, December 25, 2005.
Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead the midnight mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, December 25, 2005.[Reuters]
His brief appearance after celebrating his first Midnight Mass inside St. Peter's was broadcast by 111 television networks around the world, about half of them live.

Wearing shimmering gold vestments and a golden miter, Benedict told the crowd that God's love strengthened all of humanity.

"A united humanity will be able to confront the troubling problems of the present time: from the menace of terrorism to the humiliating poverty in which millions of human beings live, from the proliferation of weapons to the pandemics and the environmental destruction which threatens the future of our planet," he said in Italian.

In the Middle East, he prayed that God "grant courage to people of good will in the Holy Land, in Iraq, in Lebanon, where signs of hope, which are not lacking, need to be confirmed by actions inspired by fairness and wisdom."

He singled out the Darfur conflict in Africa in urging strength for all those working for peace, development and the prevention of conflicts. He urged protection "of the most elementary rights of those experiencing tragic humanitarian crises."

Pope Benedict XVI touches a girl's forehead during midnight mass, which he led, in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, December 25, 2005.
Pope Benedict XVI touches a girl's forehead during midnight mass, which he led, in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, December 25, 2005. [Reuters]
He asked God to favor continued dialogue on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere in Asia "so that by the settlement of dangerous disputes, consistent and peaceful conclusions can be reached in a spirit of friendship."

And he called for the people of Latin America to live in peace and harmony.

At the start of his message, Benedict recalled the "immense" progress that had been made in recent centuries in technology and science.

"But the men and women in our technical age risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements, ending up in spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart," he said.

To combat such a void, he urged the faithful to open their minds and hearts to Jesus Christ.

"Without the light of Christ, the light of reason is not sufficient to enlighten humanity and the world," he said.

Benedict has one other major public holiday appearance Monday, when he is to deliver a noontime prayer. Then he takes a break before presiding over an evening prayer service on New Year's Eve and celebrating Mass on New Year's Day, which the Catholic Church marks as World Peace Day.



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