RADIO VATICANA REPORT- Pope beams Christmas message of love across the world
Pope Benedict XVI has prayed for dialogue and reconciliation in the world; in the Holy Land, in Somalia, Ivory Coast and Sudan, in North and South Korea. He has prayed for an end to the suffering of the people of Haiti, and respect for human rights in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He also had a special thought for Iraqi Catholics that their ”suffering be eased” and that they may "not lose heart” and for the people of China "for restrictions on their freedom of religion and conscience”.
These are just some of Pope Benedict XVI’s wishes this Christmas, expressed in the Urbi et Orbi message, to the city of Rome and to the world. 50 thousand people crowded St Peter's Square, transforming it into a tapestry of brightly coloured umbrellas, under a steely grey sky. They sung Christmas carols and held aloft their flags, from Mexico and Poland, from Spain, Australia, the Philippines and the United States of America.
Then at noon, the red velvet drapes of St Peter’s central balcony parted and to tremendous applause, the pontifical gendarme band struck up the anthem of Vatican City State as Pope Benedict appeared. He began as is tradition: “The Word became flesh”. To this unfathomable mystery he said “there is only one answer: Love. Children seek it with their questions, so disarming and stimulating; young people seek it in their eagerness to discover the deepest meaning of their life; adults seek it in order to guide and sustain their commitments in the family and the workplace; the elderly seek it in order to grant completion to their earthly existence”.
Christmas, embodied in an infant child, continued the Pope, “is a source of hope for everyone whose dignity is offended and violated, since the one born in Bethlehem came to set every man and woman free from the source of all enslavement”.
Then he prayed “May the light of Christmas shine forth anew in the Land where Jesus was born, and inspire Israelis and Palestinians to strive for a just and peaceful coexistence. May the comforting message of the coming of Emmanuel ease the pain and bring consolation amid their trials to the beloved Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East; may it bring them comfort and hope for the future and bring the leaders of nations to show them effective solidarity. May it also be so for those in Haiti who still suffer in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and the recent cholera epidemic…..May the birth of the Saviour open horizons of lasting peace and authentic progress for the peoples of Somalia, Darfur and Côte d’Ivoire;….may it advance reconciliation on the Korean peninsula”.
“May the birth of the Saviour strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope. May the love of “God-with-us” grant perseverance to all those Christian communities enduring discrimination and persecution, and inspire political and religious leaders to be committed to full respect for the religious freedom of all”.
At the end of the message the Holy Father sent Christmas greetings across the world via television and radio, in over 60 languages, including Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Armenian, Hindi, Tamil, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Irish and of course English: “May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the Saviour has been born for us”.
The prayer for peace was at the heart of celebration’s Christmas Eve. During Midnight Mass, the Kalenda or Christmas proclamation was sung, and prayers were said for respect of human dignity from conception to natural death, and for political leaders so they may operate in favour of a peaceful coexistence between peoples; earlier in the afternoon, the Pope appeared at the window of his study to bless the Nativity Scene in St. Peter's Square and light the candle, "light of peace", placed on his windowsill, according to Polish tradition dear to John Paul II.
In a basilica packed to overflowing with more than ten thousand people gathered at the Christmas Mass, the Pope spoke of that night in Bethlehem, when " the infinite distance between God and man is overcome”. “Part of this night is simply joy at God’s closeness”, he said, “but this joy is also a prayer: Lord, make your promise come fully true”. “Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots. Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end. Fulfil the prophecy that “of peace there will be no end”.