Pope Christmas peace appeal marred by Nigeria blasts

VATICAN CITY Sun Dec 25, 2011 11:14am EST

1 of 5. Pope Benedict XVI delivers the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) Christmas Day message from the central balcony of Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Osservatore Romano

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict called for an end to violence in Syria on Sunday but his Christmas day peace appeal was marred by a bomb at a Catholic Church in Nigeria which the Vatican condemned as blind "terrorist violence."

The leader of the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics delivered his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message and blessing to tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square on a crisp but clear day as millions of others watched on television around the world.

At the end of his address, the 84-year-old pope, celebrating the seventh Christmas season of his pontificate, delivered Christmas greetings in 65 languages, including Turkish, Hebrew, Arabic, Swahili, Hindi, Urdu and Chinese.

"May the Lord come to the aid of our world torn by so many conflicts which even today stain the earth with blood," he said, speaking in a firm voice in Italian from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica.

The day that symbolizes peace for many around the world was marred by blasts in Nigeria, including one against a Catholic church near the capital Abuja that killed at least 27 people.

The pope did not mention the blast in his address, which was prepared before news of explosion arrived in Rome. But Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi condemned it.

"We are close to the suffering of the Nigerian Church and the entire Nigerian people so tried by terrorist violence, even in these days that should be of joy and peace," Lombardi told Reuters.

Responsibility for the blast at St Theresa's church and four others in Nigeria on Christmas day was claimed by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which wants to impose Islamic sharia law across a country split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims.

In his address, the pope called for "an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed."

At least 5,000 people have been killed in nine months of violence in Syria between government forces and protesters calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.

The pope, who appeared to be in good health, also called for the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and for full reconciliation and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Declaring "let us speak out for those who have no voice," Benedict also called for more help for those suffering from hunger, food shortages and displacement in the Horn of Africa, and for those affected by floods in Thailand and the Philippines.

DECRIES COMMERCIALISATION OF CHRISTMAS

Benedict's Christmas Eve homily lamented how the true meaning of the day had been overshadowed by materialism.

In that homily, he urged humanity to see through the superficial glitter and commercialism of the season and rediscover the real significance of the humble birth of Jesus.

"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity," he said.

"Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."

"... let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart," he said.

At the start of Saturday night's Christmas Eve service, he was wheeled up the central aisle of St Peter's Basilica standing on a mobile platform which he has been using since October.

The Vatican says it is to conserve his strength, allow more people to see him and guard against attacks such as one on Christmas Eve, 2009, when a woman lunged at him and knocked him to the ground. He is thought to suffer arthritis in his legs.

But he seemed to be in good shape during the solemn service in Christendom's largest church as choirs sang, cantors chanted and music filled the centuries-old basilica.

The pope continues his Christmas and New Year's celebrations on Dec 31 with a year-end Mass of thanksgiving known by its Latin name Te Deum.

On January 1 he marks the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, on January 6 he marks the Epiphany and on January 8 will baptise several newborns in the Sistine Chapel.

He is due to visit Mexico and Cuba in March.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Comments (3)
BokuIrakli wrote:
In the world 2 milliard Christians;1,5 milliard of them catholics.In virtual resistance,in real
resistance with terrorists of other religion-which ideology can oppose against opponent Western world?Western culture fully depend on Christian religion.If you choose neo
paganism,instead of Christianity, you will lose a priori! Only Christ can unite West!
Holy Pope does not have family,as priests-so all gold and wealth belongs to the Church.
Bolsheviks in Russia used this cult golden things for worship and wealth in material reasons!
So,you’ll be glad to do the same as Bolsheviks?! LORD save USA,West from neo-bolshevism! Again and again- ” Merry Christmas America!”

Dec 25, 2011 12:09pm EST  --  Report as abuse
At what point does this cease to be the behavior of the minority and start representing the position of the majority? This occurs everywhere Muslims are present, is condoned or practiced by most Muslims.

Nigeria, Spain, England, the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, the Philippines, India, and Somalia are just examples of where Islamic terrorism occurs, and attempts are made on these countries on a regular basis.

The norms and laws of Muslim-majority countries are incredibly pathological and dangerous, and they have their basis in the dominant theologies of Islam.

Time to stop sugar-coating the truth. Muslims are at war with non-Muslims. It’s why they bombed the church.

God help us all.

Dec 25, 2011 2:23pm EST  --  Report as abuse
vicmac17 wrote:
I don’t understand God sends his assistant to apply for peace and has no power to stop the war? Bah,bah, 3,000 years of bullshitt is not enough? The only time the world be in peace is the time ALL religions be baned from earth and its mafias be jailed for fraude. pedophilie, schams, war crimes, (you all forgot the criminal times of the INQUISITION?) etc. Stop the lies, about God, he is not capable of doing nothing for he does not exist, and even if that would be true who wants such lazy individual? 3,000 years without showing up to work? Fire him. Enough is enough. Exchange all the billions the religions have stolen from people and buy food and medication for the poor. Then, it will be a better world. It should start right with the media questioning the validity of the religions, but the tabu also brings billions to them, so…

Dec 25, 2011 5:39pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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