Pope Benedict XVI has delivered his traditional Christmas Eve mass in Vatican City. The leader of the Catholic Church called for peace in the Middle East while urging people to find room for God in their busy lives.
The pope marked the eighth Christmas season of his pontificate by holding a mass Monday at St. Peter's Basilica in front of some 10,000 people, with millions more around the world watching on television.
In addition to asking people to give more time to God in their busy lives, he asked for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live their lives in the peace of one God and in freedom," said the Pope.
He also prayed for peace in the Middle East as a whole, asking "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."
In clear words, the pope challenged the idea that religion is the cause for violence and war in the world.
"Where God is forgotten or denied, there is also no peace," he said.
Giving more time to God
The pope said that people should make sure to give time to God, warning that it is increasingly easier to forget religion in the new, fast-paced age of technology.
"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.
"The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have," he added. "And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full."
Earlier on Monday, the pope appeared at the window of his apartment in the apostolic palace and lit a peace candle, while a large nativity scene was unveiled in St. Peter's square below.
dr/jm (Reuters, dpa, KNA, AP)