Papal Christmas message:
Pope Benedict XVI calls for an end to Syria’s bloodshed.
Pope Benedict XVi calls for an end to the slaughter in syria, meaningful talks between israelis and Palestinians, and more religious freedom under china’s new leaders.
VATICAN CITY — In his Christmas message to the world Tuesday, Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to the slaughter in Syria and for more meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, while encouraging more religious freedom under China’s new leaders.
Delivering the traditional speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Benedict also encouraged Arabspring nations, especially Egypt, to build just and respectful societies.
The pope prayed that China’s new leadership may “esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each other” to help build a “fraternal society for the benefit of that noble people.”
It was a clear reference to the Chinese government’s often harsh treatment of Catholics loyal to the pontiff instead of to the state-sanctioned church. Earlier this month, the Vatican refused to accept the decision by Chinese authorities to revoke the title of a Shanghai bishop, who had been appointed in a rare show of consensus between the Holy See and China.
As the 85-year-old pontiff, bundled up in an ermine-trimmed red cape, stepped foot on the balcony, the pilgrims, tourists and Romans below backing St. Peter’s Square erupted in cheers.
Less than 12 hours earlier, Benedict had led a two-hour Christmas Eve ceremony in the basilica.
In his “Urbi et Orbi” speech, which traditionally reviews world events and global challenges, Benedict prayed that “peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict that does not spare even the defenseless and reaps innocent victims.”
He called for easier access to help refugees and for “dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.”
Benedict prayed that God “grant Israelis and Palestinians courage to end long years of conflict and division, and to embark resolutely on the path to negotiation.”
Hours earlier, in the ancient Bethlehem church built over the site where tradition holds Jesus was born, candles illuminated the sacred site and the joyous sound of prayer filled its overflowing halls.
Back at the Vatican, Benedict offered encouragement to countries after the Arab spring of democracy protests. He had a special word for Egypt, “blessed by the childhood of Jesus.”
Pope Benedict XVI wishes Christmas peace to the world, offering encouragement to countries after the Arab spring of democracy protests.