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Religion

Pope Benedict delivers Christmas message and blessing

Pope Benedict XVI has delivered his traditional Urbi et Orbi Christmas message and blessing in Vatican City. In his speech he appealed for peace in Syria and other war-torn nations.

Pope Benedict XVI wished Christmas peace to the world on Tuesday, in his traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) speech on Christmas Day.

The Pope's Christmas message

The Pope addressed the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City where he decried the slaughter of the "defenseless" in Syria.

"May peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims," the 85-year-old pontiff said in his message.

He called once again for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, as he had done on the previous day at Christmas Eve mass.

Referring to Egypt as the land "blessed by the childhood of Jesus," he urged countries of the Arab Spring to “work together to build societies founded on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of every person."

The pope also delivered peace appeals for Mali, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya, and called on Jesus to support rulers in Latin America "in their commitment to development and fighting crime."

Pope Benedict also singled out China where Catholics are split between a government-administered church and an underground one loyal to the Vatican.

"May the King of Peace turn his gaze to the new leaders of the People's Republic of China for the high task which awaits them," Benedict said.

The pope is the spiritual leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

hc/pfd (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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