Pope Benedict, in his first Christmas address, on Sunday urged humanity to unite against terrorism, poverty and environmental blight and called for a ”new world order” to correct economic imbalances.
The 78-year-old German-born pope made his comments to tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered under umbrellas in a rainy St. Peter square for his ”Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message and blessing.
In his address, telecast live from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to tens of millions of people in nearly 40 countries, he also urged his listeners not to let technological achievements blind them to true human values.
He said humanity should look to Jesus for encouragement in times of difficulty and fear.
“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,” he said.
“Do not fear; put your trust in him! The life-giving power of his light is an incentive for building a new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships,” he said, speaking in Italian.
The address by the leader of the world’s some 1.1 billion Roman Catholics was different in style than those of his predecessor John Paul, who died last April.
John Paul wrote his Christmas addresses in free-style verse and resembled poetry, whereas Benedict’s was in prose like a normal homily or speech.
Warning against technology
Since his election, the Pope has repeatedly reminded Catholics not to give in to an “ethical relativism” where circumstances can be used to justify actions that should be considered wrong in all cases.
The pope, wearing a gold cape and with a gold mitre, continued in that line in his Sunday address by discussing the dangers of technology and progress, implying that it should not be allowed to become tantamount to a God in its own right.
“Today we can dispose of vast material resources. But the 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,” he said.
“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 said.
In other parts of the address he appealed for respect for the rights of people suffering a humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.
He made another appeal for peace in the Holy Land and called for “actions inspired by fairness and wisdom” in Iraq and Lebanon.
The pope asked God to favor dialogue on the Korean peninsula so that “dangerous disputes” there and elsewhere in Asia can be solved peacefully.
Beacons on peace
The Sunday Urbi et Orbi followed a solemn Christmas eve midnight mass attended by a congregation that packed St Peter’s Basilica.
In his homily at that mass he urged the world’s Catholics to be beacons of peace in a troubled world and offered a special prayer for an end to strife in the Holy Land.
The next major event on the Pope’s Christmas season calendar is a mass on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Two days later he will baptize children.
In early January, the Pope is due to publish his first encyclical, a major writing addressed to all Church members.
The encyclical, believed to be called “God is Love,” deals with the individual’s personal relationship with God.