Dec 26, 2008

World - Pope’s plea for peace in Holy Land

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI 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 those fearful for the future — including in the world’s wealthiest nations, which have been hard hit by the global 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.”

The pontiff 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 it spread throughout Lebanon, Iraq and the whole Middle East[West Asia].”

The Pope also lamented deepening troubles in Zimbabwe, where under President Robert Mugabe a cholera epidemic has killed more than 1,100 people and hyperinflation doubles prices every day.

Earlier on Thursday, he led the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics into Christmas at a midnight mass in which he appealed for an end to child abuse in all its forms. “Let us think of those street children who do not have the blessing of a family home,” he said.

“Let us think of those children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse, and thus are traumatised to the depths of their soul.” In the past year he has repeatedly addressed the issue of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, but did not raise it in his Christmas homily.

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