December 25, 2005

Unite against terror, Pope says in Christmas speech

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

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.

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.


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 beaming in on the
dangers of technology and progress, implying that it should not
be allowed to become tantamount to a God in its own right.

"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

In other parts of the address he appealed for respect for
the rights of people suffering a humanitarian crisis in the
Darfur region of Sudan.

He 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 solemn Christmas eve
midnight mass attended by a congregation that packed St Peter's

In his homily at that mass he urged the world's Catholics
to be beacons of peace in a troubled world and offered a
special prayer for an end to strife in the Holy Land.

The next major event on the Pope's Christmas season
calendar is a mass on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6.
Two days later he will baptise children.

In early January, the Pope is due to publish his first
encyclical, a major writing addressed to all Church members.

The encyclical, believed to be called "God is Love," deals
with the individual's personal relationship with God.