Pope Benedict XVI marked his first Christmas as pope Sunday, calling for the "signs of hope" in the Middle East to be confirmed by actions on the ground.
Thousands of cheering tourists and pilgrims braved a chilly drizzle that turned into a downpour to hear Benedict's first Christmas message, which was delivered from the same balcony of St. Peter's Basilica where he uttered his first public words as pope.
Benedict continued the tradition of Pope John Paul II by using the "Urbi et Orbi" message - Latin for "to the city and to the world" - to review conditions around the world and lament the violence and poverty that afflict so many. He then followed in John Paul's footsteps by delighting the crowd with Christmas greetings in more than 30 languages.
In the Middle East, he prayed that God "grant courage to people of good will in the Holy Land, in Iraq, in Lebanon, where signs of hope, which are not lacking, need to be confirmed by actions inspired by fairness and wisdom."