Pope Offers Christmas Prayers for Peace

Vatican City (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI urged a solution to conflicts across the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa, in a Christmas Day address that included an appeal for the poor, the exploited, and all those who suffer.

"With deep apprehension I think, on this festive day, of the Middle East, marked by so many grave crises and conflicts, and I express my hope that the way will be opened to a just and lasting peace," Benedict said Monday.

The Pope singled out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his speech.

"I place in the hands of the divine Child of Bethlehem the indications of a resumption of dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which we have witnessed in recent days, and the hope of further encouraging developments," the pontiff said from a balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square.

The pope also mentioned violence in Lebanon, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Darfur and the whole of Africa, as Ethiopian fighter jets bombed airports in Somalia and more people died in suicide bombings in Iraq.

Under his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, the Christmas Day message became an occasion to review progress and setbacks for humanity. Benedict noted Monday that despite its modern-day successes, the world remains in desperate need of a savior.

"This humanity of the 21st century appears as sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs," the pope said. "Yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and unbridled consumerism."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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