Pope Benedict Calls for End to Syria Bloodshed in Christmas Message

Posted December 25th, 2011 at 12:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Pope Benedict has called for an end to the bloodshed in Syria and the resumption of Middle East peace talks, as Christians across the world celebrate Christmas — the birth of Jesus more than 2,000 years ago.

In his annual “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) Christmas message, Benedict also offered prayers for hundreds of thousands of flood victims in East Asia and for the people of the famine-stricken Horn of Africa. He spoke from a window at the Vatican overlooking a sun-drenched St. Peter's Square, which was packed with tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists.

“May the Lord come to the aid of our world torn by so many conflicts which even today stain the earth with blood. May the Prince of Peace grant peace and stability to that land where he chose to come into the world, and encourage the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. May he bring an end to violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed. May he foster full reconciliation and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. May he grant renewed vigor to all elements of societies in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East as they strive to advance the common good.”

The 84-year-old pontiff also called for continued political dialogue in Burma.

Hours earlier, Benedict urged worshippers at midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica to look beyond the Christmas holiday's “superficial glitter” to discover its true meaning.

“Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity. Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.”

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, tens of thousands of pilgrims celebrated Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity, on a site thought to mark Jesus' birthplace.