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Pope John Paul II Calls for Peace in Holy Land - 2002-12-25

In his Christmas message, Pope John Paul II has called for peace in a world made fearful by terrorism. He also appealed to believers of all religions to avert a new conflict.

Despite the gray rainy day, a large crowd gathered in Saint Peter's Square to hear the Pope's words this Christmas. The pilgrims clapped and screamed in delight as the Pope was driven through the square in a white open-top vehicle.

The frail 82-year-old Pope addressed the crowd, as millions all over the world followed his words on television.

In his annual "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas message, to the city and to the world, the Pope called on believers of all religions to build peace in the Holy Land. He also urged an end to what he described as "the senseless spiral of blind violence" to extinguish a smoldering conflict, which he said, can be overcome.

Although the Pope did not specifically mention Iraq, his words were taken to be an appeal to avert a new war.

The Pope also spoke of Africa where, he said, devastating famines and tragic internal conflicts are aggravating the already precarious conditions of the people. And the Pope had thoughts for those parts of the world undergoing political, economic and social crises.

The Pope made an appeal to the world not to yield to what he described as mistrust, suspicion and discouragement. And he said not to let terrorism feed uncertainties and fears. He then wished the world a merry Christmas in 62 languages.