Pope says Christmas mass amid security concerns

Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:05pm EST
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict prayed for peace Friday as he led the world's Roman Catholics into Christmas at a mass marked by heightened security following parcel bomb attacks at two embassies in the Italian capital.

"At this hour, full of thankfulness, we join in the singing of all the centuries, singing that unites heaven and earth, angels and men," Benedict said in his sermon at a traditional Christmas Eve Mass in St Peter's Basilica attended by some 10,000 people.

"Grant that we many join with you in love more and more and thus become people of peace," he said, wearing resplendent gold and white vestments.

Celebrating his sixth Christmas as pope, the 83-year-old Benedict earlier lit a candle at his window overlooking St Peter's Square for the official opening of the Vatican's nativity scene but a torrential downpour kept attendance low.

Police were on heightened security in the Vatican and in Rome a day after parcel bombs at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome. Anarchists claimed responsibility for the attacks, which injured one person at each embassy.

"His guardian angel will protect him and each one of us will be protected," said tourist Gayle Savino, from New York, as she entered the basilica for the mass. "It's just a blessing to be here on such a wonderful night on Christ's birthday."


Vatican guards were also more vigilant following security breaches for two consecutive years at Christmas Eve masses by the same woman, Susanna Maiolo.   Continued...

<p>Pope Benedict XVI leads the Christmas mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican December 24, 2010. REUTERS/Max Rossi</p>