VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II’s message for Christmas turned into a plea to God for world peace and an end to terrorism.
“Save us from the wars and armed conflicts which lay waste whole areas of the world,” the Pope asked before giving Christmas greetings in 62 languages and imparting his blessing “urbi et orbi” — to the city of Rome and the world.
“Save us from the scourge of terrorism and from the many forms of violence which assail the weak and the vulnerable,” he added under clear, cold skies.
The Holy Father read the full text of his message, which was shorter than in years past. The night before the 83-year-old Pope presided over the lengthy Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Instead of speaking from the balcony of the basilica’s facade, as was scheduled, the Pontiff preferred to come down to St. Peter’s Square in his movable chair, in order to be closer to the 60,000 pilgrims on hand.
He prayed: “Save us from discouragement as we face the paths to peace, difficult paths indeed, yet possible and therefore necessary; paths which are always and everywhere urgent, especially in the land where you were born, the Prince of Peace.”
“The Savior is born for us!” he affirmed, noting the basis of Christian hope for peace. “A wave of tenderness and hope fills our hearts, together with an overpowering need for closeness and peace.”
“What wonder! By being born in Bethlehem, the Eternal Son of God has entered into the history of each person living on the face of the earth,” the Pope said.
“May the joy of your Nativity reach to the farthest ends of the universe!” he concluded.
The Pope’s Christmas message was carried by a record 82 television channels in 50 countries, said Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls.