News / Europe

Christmas 2012 Features Prayers for Peace, Mourning, Violent Weather

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his
Pope Benedict XVI delivers his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the City and to the World) speech from the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Dec. 25, 2012.
VOA News
Christmas has come and gone across much of the globe. Along with joyful feasts and gift-giving, this year was marked by prayers for peace and mourning for young victims of gun violence.

Pope Benedict prayed Tuesday that "peace would spring up for the people of Syria," where a civil war has killed tens of thousands, mostly civilians.

Addressing thousands of pilgrims at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Benedict also called for peace in Mali, where al-Qaida-linked militants occupy part of the country, and Nigeria, where terrorism by Islamist extremists has killed hundreds

Pilgrims from all over the world gathered in the West Bank town of Bethlehem to celebrate at the place where Christians believe Jesus was born.


Photo Gallery: Christmas in Bethlehem

  • A general view of Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, is seen on Christmas eve in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
  • A Palestinian girl watches a Christmas parade outside the Church of Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
  • A Palestinian boy scout marching band parades during a Christmas procession at Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem,December 24, 2012.
  • A member of the clergy holds a cross as he waits for the arrival of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
  • The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal (C) prepares to bless the crowd outside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
  • A Catholic pilgrim touches a column inside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem,December 24, 2012. Thousands of Christian worshipers and tourists arrived in Bethlehem to mark Christmas at the site many believe Jesus Christ was born.
  • Christian worshipers visit the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, ahead of Christmas, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 23, 2012.
  • A Christian worshiper walks out of the Church of Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
  • A Palestinian vendor sells balloons and Christmas hats at Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, on Christmas eve in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.

Roman Catholic bishop Fouad Twal urged Palestinians to work with Israelis to end the region's seemingly endless conflict.

In the United States, 26 candles burned in Newtown, Connecticut amid piles of snow-covered teddy bears and Christmas stockings at a memorial for the victims of the December 14 elementary school massacre. Twenty young children who were looking forward to opening presents and celebrating with family Tuesday are instead being mourned along with six teachers who died trying to protect them.

Severe weather made for a dangerous holiday in other parts of the country. Snow, sleet and ice covered highways in the midwest while heavy rain and tornadoes threatened parts of the south.

Despite cold weather, the festivities continued late into the evening, with some tourists calling it a moving experience.

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