Pope makes Christmas appeal for peace in Holy Land

Thu Dec 25, 2008 7:28am EST
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By Phil Stewart

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Thursday he hoped Christmas would bring hope to those suffering from war, terrorism, injustice and poverty and appealed for peace in the Holy Land.

In his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) Christmas Day message, the Pope also turned his thoughts to some of the world's wealthiest countries, which have been hard hit by the world financial crisis.

"In each of these places may the light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity," he said from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica to tens of thousands of people below.

"If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart."

Benedict is expected to visit the Holy Land in 2009, with possible stops in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

He hoped the region, the site of renewed violence after a truce ended this month between Israel and Palestinian factions led by Hamas militants, could return to the path toward peace.

"May the divine light of Bethlehem radiate throughout the Holy Land, where the horizon seems once again bleak for Israelis and Palestinians," Benedict said, condemning the "twisted logic of conflict and violence."

"May it spread throughout Lebanon, Iraq and the whole Middle East."   Continued...

<p>Pope Benedict XVI waves his faithful as he leads his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) Christmas Day message from the central balcony of Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2008. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>