Pope Benedict delivered his first Christmas message and blessing to the world, eight months after his election. He called for a new world order, and urged humanity to unite to confront the problems of today.

An enthusiastic crowd welcomed Pope Benedict in Saint Peter's Square. Tens-of-thousands cheered and called out his name, as the pope came to the balcony to deliver his first "Urbi et Orbi" message and blessing to the world.

They came in large numbers, wearing heavy coats, and carrying umbrellas to shield themselves from the cold and drizzle. But they all appeared happy to be in the square to listen to the pope's words.

Pope Benedict, wearing a gold cape with a gold mitre, addressed a crowded square from the same balcony where he first appeared, following his election to head the world's Roman Catholics in April.

In his message Sunday, the pope called for a new world order to correct economic imbalances. He also urged humanity to unite against the many troubling problems of the present time.

A united humanity, the pope said, will be able to confront the menace of terrorism, the humiliating poverty in which millions live, the proliferation of weapons, pandemics and environmental destruction.

The pope also said there are signs of hope in Iraq, the Holy Land and Lebanon, but these need to be confirmed by fair and wise actions on the ground.

He also had special words for the African continent. He urged protection for the victims of tragic humanitarian crises in Sudan's Darfur region and elsewhere in Africa. And he called for dialogue on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere in Asia, to reach the settlement of dangerous disputes.

He then wished a cheering crowd a merry Christmas in more than two dozen languages.