VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2005 ( In his first Christmas message, Benedict XVI prayed that the light of the Child Jesus might encourage humanity to build a more just world order.

The Pope's words were heard by some 40,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square, as well as millions of television viewers worldwide who followed his traditional blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world) on 111 television channels in 68 countries.

"Men and women of today, humanity come of age yet often still so frail in mind and will, let the Child of Bethlehem take you by the hand! Do not fear; put your trust in him!" exhorted the Pontiff in a message in which he touched alternately on spirituality and burning current issues.

"The life-giving power of his light is an incentive for building a new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships," the Holy Father added.

May the love of God, incarnated at Christmas, "guide every people on earth and strengthen their common consciousness of being a 'family' called to foster relationships of trust and mutual support," he prayed.

Africa's woes

"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," Benedict XVI said.

The Holy Father then reviewed some of the most worrying and tension-ridden areas in the world, beginning with Africa.

For that continent he appealed for the prevention of "fratricidal conflicts, for the consolidation of the present, still fragile political transitions, and the protection of the most elementary rights of those experiencing tragic humanitarian crises."

In particular, Benedict XVI called attention to the Darfur region of Sudan and other areas of central Africa.

May God made man "lead the peoples of Latin America to live in peace and harmony," the Pope continued.

"May he grant courage to people of good will in the Holy Land, in Iraq, in Lebanon, where signs of hope, which are not lacking, need to be confirmed by actions inspired by fairness and wisdom," he added.

At risk

Finally, the Pope prayed that God "favor the process of dialogue on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere in the countries of Asia, so that by the settlement of dangerous disputes, consistent and peaceful conclusions can be reached in a spirit of friendship, conclusions which their peoples expectantly await."

According to the Bishop of Rome, "men and women in our technological age risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements, ending up in spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart."

"That is why it is so important for us to open our minds and hearts to the Birth of Christ, this event of salvation which can give new hope to the life of each human being," he explained.

The pilgrims that filled St. Peter's Square braved the rain and cold and encouraged the Pope with applause and shouts. The Holy Father responded with good wishes.

After delivering his message, he imparted his tradition blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city Rome and the world) from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, in 33 languages.

In English, he said: "May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may our hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the Savior has been born for us."