VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II in his Christmas Day message invited the world to recognize in Jesus the face of every little child — “the little Palestinian and the little Israeli; the little American and the little Afghan.”
In his traditional message “urbi et orbi” (to the city and to the world), the Pope said: “A helpless Newborn Child in a lowly cave restores dignity to every life being born, and brings hope to those overcome by doubt and discouragement. He has come to heal life’s wounds and to restore meaning to death itself.”
From the balcony of St. Peter´s Basilica, the Holy Father address tens of thousands of pilgrims huddled in the Square. Hundreds of millions worldwide followed the address by television or radio.
In Christ “we can recognize the face of every little child who is born, of whatever race or nation: the little Palestinian and the little Israeli; the little American and the little Afghan; the child of the Hutu and the child of the Tutsi … whoever the child is, to Christ each one is special,” the Holy Father said.
“The Divine Child born in Bethlehem brings in his little hands as a gift the key to peace for mankind,” he emphasized.
“Today my thoughts go to all the children of the world: so many, too many are the children condemned from birth to suffer through no fault of their own the effects of cruel conflicts,” he lamented. “Let us save the children, in order to save the hope of humanity!”
“This is what we are urgently called to do by that Child born in Bethlehem, the God who became man, to give us back the right to hope,” he insisted.
On the 24th Christmas of his pontificate, John Paul II extended an invitation to all people to “open your hearts to this message of peace,” which is also a call to social and economic justice.
“Jesus was born to strengthen the bonds uniting individuals and peoples, to make them all, in himself, brothers and sisters,” the Bishop of Rome said. “He came to break down the dividing wall of hostility and to make one family of all mankind.”
He insisted, “Today, in the Incarnate Word, peace is born … 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.”
John Paul made no direct reference to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or to the U.S.-led bombings in Afghanistan. But he said the new millennium began with much hope “but is now threatened by dark clouds of violence and war.” He also prayed that God “come where the fate of humanity is most in peril. Come and do not delay.”
The Pope made a prayerful appeal that “God´s holy name never be used as a justification for hatred! Let it never be used as an excuse for intolerance and violence.”
“May the gentle face of the Child of Bethlehem remind everyone that we all have one Father,” he concluded.
With only a few hours rest after presiding over midnight Mass at St. Peter´s Basilica, the 81-year-old Pontiff appeared tired when he spoke. After the message he imparted his blessing “urbi et orbi” in 60 languages.
In English he said: “May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the Savior has been born for us.”