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Pope calls for Israeli-Palestinian peace
By REUTERS
25/12/2012
Pope Benedict leads world's Roman Catholics into Christmas,asks for prayers for those who "live, suffer" in Holy Land.
 
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.

The 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.

The pope 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 God's peace."

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 decline.

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.

"The 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.

The leader 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.

"There 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 God."
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