Pope Expresses Concern For Middle East in Christmas Message

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday wished the world a Merry Christmas from the Vatican. In his holiday message he stressed his concern for the Middle East, Lebanon and Iraq. He also said that in this post-modern age, humanity still needs to be saved. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

"It is Christmas. Today the true light that enlightens every man came into the world," he said.

Pope Benedict was addressing thousands of pilgrims gathered under a brilliant sun in Rome's Saint Peter's Square and millions more watching him on television all over the world.

In his traditional Christmas "Urbi et Orbi" message, the pope highlighted his concern for the Middle East, marked by so many grave crises and conflicts. He expressed the hope that the way for a just and lasting peace will be opened through a resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Then, his thoughts turned to Lebanon and Iraq.

"I am confident," the pope said, "that after so many victims, destruction and uncertainty, a democratic Lebanon open to others and in dialogue with different cultures and religions, will survive and progress. "

The pope appealed to all those who hold in their hands the fate of Iraq to bring an end to the brutal violence that has brought so much bloodshed in the country. He also called for an end to fratricidal conflicts in Darfur and throughout Africa.

The pope said that this humanity has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe. He said it knows no limits in its pursuit of nature's secrets and has succeeded in deciphering the marvelous codes of the human genome.

The pope said humanity has invented interactive communication, which navigates the virtual ocean thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies. Pope Benedict said this humanity of 21st century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny.

But, he said, this is not the case, and he listed the problems that still exist in today's world.

"People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and unbridled consumerism," the pope said. "Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination."

The pope told the pilgrims others see their own bodies and those of children maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence. Man, the pope said, still needs to be "saved".

Pope Benedict said in his Christmas message that man, in this post-modern age, needs a Savior all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious.