Pope decries slaughter of 'defenseless' Syrians

8:02 AM, Dec 25, 2012   |    comments
  • Pope Benedict XVI (file)
  • Church of the Nativity in Manger Square, Bethlehem, West Bank
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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has wished Christmas peace to the world, decrying the slaughter of the "defenseless" in Syria and urging Israelis and Palestinians to find the courage to negotiate.

Delivering the Vatican's traditional Christmas day message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, a weary-looking and hoarse-sounding Benedict on Tuesday also encouraged Arab spring nations, especially Egypt, to build just and respectful societies.

He says Egypt was the land "blessed by the childhood of Jesus."

He also prayed that China's new leaders respect religion, a reference to persecution Chinese Roman Catholics have at times endured under communism.

Earlier, Pope Benedict said he's worried that "there is no room left for God" in our hectic and technology-driven lives.

During Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican, the pontiff added that if there's no room for God, then there's no room "for children, for the poor, for the stranger."

Worshippers rejoice in Jesus' Bethlehem birthplace 

Pilgrims celebrate Christmas Day Mass in the ancient Bethlehem church where tradition holds Jesus was born, candles illuminating the sacred site and joyous prayer filling its halls.

Worshippers lined up Tuesday inside the fourth-century Church of the Nativity complex, waiting to see the grotto that is Jesus' traditional birthplace.

Duncan Hardock, a 24-year-old teacher from MacLean, Virginia, says he got to see "both sides of Bethlehem" as he arrived at Manger Square after passing through the separation barrier Israel built to ward off West Bank attackers.


(Associated Press)

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