VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict, leading the world's Roman Catholics into
Christmas, on Monday appealed for a solution to the Arab-Israeli
conflict and an end to the civil war in Syria.
85-year-old pope, marking the eighth Christmas season of his
pontificate, celebrated a solemn Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter's
Basilica, during which he urged people to find room for God in their
fast-paced lives filled with the latest technological gadgets.
Ahead of his Christmas Eve address, the pope appeared at the window of his apartments in the
apostolic palace and lit a peace candle. He asked for prayers for the
people who "live and suffer" in the Holy Land today.
called for peace among Israelis and Palestinians and for the people of
Syria, Lebanon and Iraq and prayed that "Christians in those lands where
our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that
Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side-by-side in
The Vatican is concerned about the exodus from the
Middle East of Christians, many of whom leave because they fear for
their safety. Christians now comprise five percent of the population of
the region, down from 20 percent a century ago.
According to some
estimates, the current population of 12 million Christians in the
Middle East could halve by 2020 if security and birth rates continue to
Pope: Find room for God
At the mass for
some 10,000 people in the basilica and broadcast to millions of others
on television, the pope wove his homily around the theme of God's place
in today's modern world.
"Do we have time and space for him? Do
we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no
time for him," said the pope, wearing gold and white vestments.
faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances
become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems
urgent. Our time is already completely full," he said.
of the world's some 1.2 billion Roman Catholics said societies had
reached the point where many people's thinking processes did not leave
any room even for the existence of God.
"Even if he seems to
knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away. If
thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way
that the 'God hypothesis' becomes superfluous," he said.
is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any
room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we
want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes
to succeed. We are so 'full' of ourselves that there is no room left for