Pope John Paul II called on the world to focus on saving children, "the hope of humanity." In his Christmas message, he called on those who work for dialogue and cooperation between cultures and religions not to lose hope in the power of God's love. Sabina Castelfranco has this report from Rome.
Pope John Paul gave his traditional Christmas urbi et orbi blessing to the city and the world today from St Peter's basilica.
"Men and women of the third millennium," he said, "you who hunger for justice and peace, accept the message of Christmas, which today rings out around the world!"
It was very cold in St. Peter's Square today, but it was a beautiful sunny day as the pope addressed tens of thousands of people.
In his Christmas message, the pope spoke of the dawn of the new millennium, which began with so much hope but is now threatened by dark clouds of violence and war.
Announcing the birth of Christ, the pope said Jesus was born to strengthen the bonds uniting individuals and peoples. He came to break down the dividing wall of hostility and to make one family of mankind.
The pope called for peace to be forged in a world in which peoples and nations, burdened with so many and such varied difficulties, hope for a new humanity united not just by economic interests but by the unceasing effort to bring about a society that is more just and supportive.
Pope John Paul turned his thoughts to all the children of the world. He said too many children are condemned from birth to suffer through no fault of their own the effects of cruel conflicts. In the face of Jesus, he said, we can recognize the face of every little child that is born, be he Palestinian or Israeli, American or Afghan. Let us save the children, the pope urged, in order to save the hope of humanity.
The pope also spoke of his daily concerns. Day after day, he said, I bear in my heart the tragic problems of the Holy Land; every day I think with anxiety of all those who are dying of cold and hunger; every day there reaches me the desperate cry of those who, in so many parts of the world call for a fairer distribution of resources and for gainful employment for all.
Pope John Paul urged humanity not to lose hope in the power of God's love. May Christ be the light and support of all those who believe and work, sometimes in the face of opposition, for … dialogue and cooperation between cultures and religions
The pope also said that God's holy name should never be used as a justification for hatred. Let it never be used, he said, as an excuse for intolerance and violence.
Millions of people watched the address and heard the pope's words, which were televised live to 47 countries. The pope then wished a merry Christmas to people all over the world in 60 different languages.
On Monday night, the pope celebrated Christmas Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica. The Church was as crowded as ever despite the tightened security for fears of terror attacks. Hundreds turned out to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Pope John Paul appeared in good form as read his homily in a clear and strong voice. He said that this Christmas hearts around the world are anxious and distressed by war and social tensions in various parts of the world. But, he added, Christ's message of hope is still valid in today's troubled world.