Unite against terror, Pope says in Christmas speech

Reuters | December 25, 2005
By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, in his first Christmas address, on Sunday urged humanity to unite against terrorism, poverty and environmental blight and called for a "new world order" to correct economic imbalances.

The Pope made his comments to tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered under umbrellas in a rainy St Peter square for his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message and blessing.

In his address, telecast live from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica to tens of millions of people in nearly 40 countries, he also urged his listeners not to let technological achievements blind them to true human values.

He said humanity should look to the Christ child for encouragement in times of difficulty and fear.

"A united humanity will be able to confront the many troubling problems of the present time: from the menace of terrorism to the humiliating poverty in which millions of human beings live, from the proliferation of weapons to the pandemics and the environmental destruction which threatens the future of our planet," he said.

"Do not fear; put your trust in him! The life-giving power of his light is an incentive for building a new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships," he said, speaking in Italian.

Marching bands of the Swiss Guard and Italian police played for the crowd near a larger-than-life nativity scene, making for a festive atmosphere despite the rain.

The address by the leader of the world's some 1.1 billion Roman Catholics was different in style than those of his predecessor John Paul, who died last April.

John Paul wrote his Christmas addresses in free-style verse and resembled poetry, whereas Benedict's was in prose like a normal homily or speech.

After the address, Benedict wished the world a Happy Christmas in 33 languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Swahili, Japanese and Latin. His predecessor sometimes used twice as many languages on Christmas. 


Since his election, the Pope has repeatedly reminded Catholics not to give in to an "ethical relativism" where circumstances can be used to justify actions that should be considered wrong in all cases.

The Pope, wearing a gold cape and with a gold mitre, continued in that line on Sunday address by focusing on the dangers of technology and progress.

"Today we can dispose of vast material resources. But the men and women in our technological age risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements, ending up in spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart," he said.

"That is why it is so important for us to open our minds and hearts to the birth of Christ, this event of salvation which can give new hope to the life of each human being," he said.

He also urged respect for the rights of people suffering in the Darfur region of Sudan, made another appeal for peace in the Holy Land and called for "actions inspired by fairness and wisdom" in Iraq and Lebanon.

The Pope asked God to favor dialogue on the Korean peninsula so that "dangerous disputes" there and elsewhere in Asia can be solved peacefully.

The Sunday Urbi et Orbi followed a Christmas eve midnight mass attended by a congregation that packed St Peter's Basilica.

In his homily at that mass he urged the world's Catholics to be beacons of peace in a troubled world.

The next major event on the Pope's Christmas season calendar is a mass on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6.

In early January, the Pope is due to publish his first encyclical, a major writing addressed to all Church members. The encyclical deals with the individual's personal relationship with God.