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Online Poker News Archives - December 25, 2005

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December 25, 2005

Benedict Leads 1st Christmas Mass as Pope

Benedict XVI Marks First Christmas Since Becoming Pope, Offers Prayer for Peace in Holy Land

VATICAN CITY Dec 25, 2005 — Pope Benedict XVI offered a Christmas prayer for peace in the Holy Land on Sunday and made a special mention of children, including the unborn, as he led his first midnight Mass in the splendor of St. Peter's Basilica.

Benedict's reference to the unborn in his homily was a clear reference to the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to abortion.

"God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenseless child, so that we can love him," Benedict said, referring to the birth of Jesus. He said that "something of the splendor" of Christmas "shines on every child, even on those still unborn." Reading his homily slowly, Benedict stressed the word "every" in his reference to children.

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"On this night, when we look toward Bethlehem, let us pray in a special way for the birthplace of our Redeemer and for the men and women who live and suffer there," the pope said. "We wish to pray for peace in the Holy Land."

At the start of the service, a dozen children brought flowers up to the center altar, placing them near a statue depicting baby Jesus as a choir of adults and youths sang hymns.

Benedict wore gold-colored robes and blessed the crowd when he arrived, striding up the central aisle of the basilica, which was packed with pilgrims, tourists and Romans.

For the overflow, two giant screens were set up in St. Peter's Square, which was made festive with a 100-foot high Austrian fir, shimmering with decorations. In his homily, Benedict said a flame lit in Bethlehem accompanied the tree.

It was Benedict's first Midnight Mass since being elected April 19, and the first major public engagement of the Christmas period at the Vatican for the 78-year-old pontiff.

On Christmas Day at noon, Benedict was scheduled to deliver the "Urbi et Orbi" message (Latin for "to the city and to the world") to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square and offer holiday greetings.

His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, used to delight the crowds by delivering holiday wishes in dozens of languages. John Paul also would use the "Urbi et Orbi" message to review conditions around the world, often lamenting conflicts, poverty and the excesses of consumerism.

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