VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) -- Pope Benedict XVI, in his first Christmas message as pontiff, issued calls for an awakening from spiritual barrenness by humankind and for peace and reconciliation in some of the world’s hotspots.
In his midday Dec. 25 message delivered before imparting the traditional blessing “urbi et orbi” (“to the city of Rome and the world”), the pontiff told the some 40,000 gathered in a chilly downpour in St. Peter’s Square here that “a new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships” and a strengthened “common consciousness” of the global family is needed.
The pope on Africa singled out peace efforts, economic development, prevention of fratricidal conflicts, consolidations of political transitions and “protection of the most elementary rights of those experiencing tragic humanitarian crisis,” such as in Darfur, Sudan.
He pointed to “signs of hope” in the Holy Land, Iraq and Lebanon, which need to be “confirmed by actions inspired by fairness and wisdom, and the process of dialogue on the Korean peninsula and throughout Asia to realize “the settlement of dangerous disputes,” including nuclear proliferation.
“A united humanity will be able to confront the many troubling problems of the present time: from the menace of terrorism to the humiliating poverty in which millions of human beings live, from the proliferation of weapons to the pandemics and the environmental destruction which threatens the future of our planet.”
The pope, dressed in gold vestments and miter, opened his remarks from the St. Peter’s Basilica balcony, reminding those assembled and those who tuned in from a reported 68 nations throughout the world of the “immense progress” made over the last centuries in the fields of technology and science.
Yet, today, men and women risk becoming victimized by their own achievements and realizing “spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart,” the pope said.
Humankind needs to open its “minds and hearts” to the coming of the Christ child, and the challenge he as God offers “to understand and live our lives,” he said. “Wake up, O men and women of the third millennium,” the pope said, paraphrasing St. Augustine. “Without the light of Christ, the light of reason is not sufficient to enlighten humanity and the world.”
“On Bethlehem night, the redeemer becomes one of us, our companion along the precarious paths of history,” the pope said. “Let us take the hand which he stretches out to us. It is a hand which seeks to take nothing from us, but only to give.”
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- Lombard is the editor in chief/director of news operations of Catholic Online.