Pope calls for rebirth of peace

Xmas celebrations: High security after Rome parcel bombs

 Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican on  Saturday. APIn the “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message, he said the Christmas message of peace and hope was always new, surprising and daring and should spur everyone in the peaceful struggle for justice.

Speaking from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica to thousands of people braving the chill and drizzle in the square below, he delivered Christmas greetings in 65 languages, including those spoken in the world’s trouble spots.

“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,” he said.

He hoped Christmas would bring consolation to Christians in Iraq and all the West Asia.

Benedict also directly criticed China, where recently Catholics loyal to the pope were forced to attend a series of events by the state-backed church which does not recognise his authority, bringing relations with the Vatican to a low point.

He prayed that Christmas would “strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the church in mainland China” and decried “the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience...”

Benedict asked God to “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”.

The police were on heightened security in the Vatican and in Rome two days after parcel bombs exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome. Anarchists claimed responsibility for the attacks, which injured one person at each embassy.
More police than normal were seen along the main street leading from the Tiber River to the Vatican but the atmosphere in the square was festive despite the security and the rain.

Vatican guards were more vigilant on Friday night following security breaches for two consecutive years at the Christmas eve masses by the same woman, Susanna Maiolo.

Last year the woman, who has had a history of mental problems, jumped over a barricade as the pope walked up the basilica’s main aisle and managed to pull him to the floor. The year before, she was stopped before she could reach him.

In his message on Saturday, Benedict called for peace in Somalia, Darfur and Ivory Coast, reconciliation between the two Koreas and respect for human rights in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Comments (+)