John Paul II Says Conflict in Mideast Can Be Avoided

Christmas Message Also Asks for Peace in Holy Land

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2002 ( The God-made-man Child invites us to overcome the climate of suspicion that provokes terrorism, John Paul II said as he made a special plea for peace in the Mideast.

During his Christmas address “urbi et orbi” — to the city of Rome and the world — the Pope called for an end to “the senseless spiral of blind violence” in the Holy Land.

He asked that believers of all religions help “extinguish the ominous smoldering of a conflict” in the Mideast “which, with the joint efforts of all, can be avoided.”

“From the cave of Bethlehem there rises today an urgent appeal to the world not to yield to mistrust, suspicion and discouragement, even though the tragic reality of terrorism feeds uncertainties and fears,” declared the Holy Father from the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Pope didn’t mention any nations by name. Vatican officials, including Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for relations with states, have been openly critical of the possible U.S. military action against Iraq.

In his message, John Paul II also mentioned Africa, “where devastating famines and tragic internal conflicts are aggravating the already precarious conditions of entire peoples, although here and there signs of hope are present.”

He also cited Latin America and Asia “where political, economic and social crises disturb the serenity of many families and nations.”

“May humanity accept the Christmas message of peace!” the Pope exclaimed in his message which was televised in some 50 countries.

Under drizzly skies, more than 20,000 in St. Peter’s Square heard the message. John Paul II pronounced his Christmas greeting in 62 languages.

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