The thoughts for the day

The Pope called for the creation of a "new world order'. The Queen said humanity was "turning in on itself". Gorillaz just blamed James Blunt. Matthew Beard reports on this year's mixed seasonal messages
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The Queen: "World is not always an easy place to live in"

The Queen's Christmas message focused on the disasters and tragedies over the past 12 months - from the tsunami, the hurricanes in the Caribbean and New Orleans, the earthquake in Pakistan and India and the London bombings.

In a sombre annual speeches, she reflected on how she sometimes thought "that humanity seemed to have turned on itself - with wars, civil disturbances and acts of brutal terrorism".

She spoke of how the suicide bombings on 7 July had changed people's lives. "This Christmas my thoughts are especially with those everywhere who are grieving the loss of loved ones during what for so many has been such a terrible year," she said. "This last year has reminded us that this world is not always an easy or a safe place to live in, but it is the only place we have.

She added: "The day after my last Christmas message was broadcast, the world experienced one of the worst natural disasters ever recorded. This was followed by a number of hurricanes across the Caribbean and the inundation of the city of New Orleans. Then in the autumn came the massive earthquake in Pakistan and India.

"This series of dreadful events has brought loss and suffering to so many people and their families and friends - not only in the countries directly affected, but here in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth." Her message was accompanied by footage of the memorial service, which she attended, held to remember those who died in the blasts.

John Reid: "Thank you for the risks you undertake"

John Reid, the Secretary of State for Defence, turned disc jockey yesterday as he sent a message of thanks to the 38,000 UK armed forces personnel serving overseas this Christmas.

His chosen songs included Amarillo by Tony Christie, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and the somewhat saccharine Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler.

Mr Reid picked out his favourite tunes to entertain troops based in locations from the Balkans to Iraq and Afghanistan, and told them: " Thank you for the risks you undertake; thank you for the service you give to your country; thank you for the dangers you're prepared to confront.

Mr Reid said he appreciated the problems the armed forces faced, and was trying to address them. "There's never enough money for welfare, for equipment for the needs we have, but we are trying to do that as fully as we can."

Mr Reid said he was privileged to work as Defence Secretary, even though it often meant he had to spend time away from his family.

"It's a great job. I've had eight jobs in Government. The two I've enjoyed most are Defence and Northern Ireland."

According to Mr Reid, one of the best things about being Northern Ireland Secretary was that "nobody blames you for anything that goes wrong" .

However, Mr Reid lamented that his job as Secretary of State for Defence had turned him off eating the traditional Christmas dinner.

"A lot of [being Defence Secretary] is being invited to fancy meals. The last thing I need is another fancy meal."

The Archbishop of Canterbury: "They have known just what the difference is that Jesus makes"

The Archbishop of Canterbury singled out for praise the forgiveness shown by two families who had to contend with violent attacks this year.

Dr Rowan Williams highlighted the response of the mother of the black teenager Anthony Walker, who was murdered in a racist attack in Merseyside, and the parents of Abigail Witchalls, who was left paralysed after a knife attack.

Gee Walker announced recently that she had forgiven cousins Paul Taylor and Michael Barton, who killed her son with an ice pick.

Ms Witchalls mother, Professor Sheila Hollins, said she had forgiven Richard Cazaly, who stabbed her pregnant daughter in a Surrey village in April. Professor Hollins said the suicide of her daughter's killer was the " real tragedy".

Both cases, Dr Williams said at Canterbury Cathedral, illustrated the difference made possible by the "miraculous love" offered by God to the human race.

Of Mrs Walker, he said: "What made this so intensely moving was the fact that her forgiveness was drawn agonisingly out of her, without making her loss easier. It was mercy without a hint of trivialisation or excuse for wrongdoing. No preacher could say it like that, could make it sound utterly true and costly and necessary all at once."

Dr Williams said: "They have known in their flesh and nerves just what the difference is that Jesus makes; it is not comfort or easy answers, it is the sheer fact that ­ we have to use the word ­ miraculous love is possible."

The archbishop also spoke about the tsunami. "For those most directly involved, 26 December 2004 marks a brutal interruption ­ the death or injury of someone, terrible anxiety, bereavement, anger and bewilderment. But for all of us, the date will carry significance, for all of us something erupted into our comfortable consciousness. Like September 11 and, now, July 7 as well, it stands in the landscape or the map, a feature that will never be obliterated."

The Archbishop of Westminster: "Let Bethlehem be what it is meant to be"

The Archbishop of Westminster, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, urged Christians to visit Bethlehem which he says is " blocked in" because of Israeli security measures.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor described the people of the town of Christ's birth as "terribly alone". Speaking at his Midnight Mass homily at Westminster Cathedral, the Cardinal prayed that "the eyes and the hearts of the world be opened to what is happening there" and pleaded for a new strategy for peace.

He said the Holy Land conflict had inflicted "a terrible wound on humanity" and urged the parties to the conflict to "bind that wound " and "build bridges, not walls". "Let Bethlehem be what it is meant to be: a free and open city". Referring to the July 7 terror attacks in London, he said the bombers "did not know, or care, whom they killed". He added that "from terror which sought to exterminate a faceless crowd, there arose people with names and stories" .

The Cardinal gave his Christmas message hours before flying to Sri Lanka to mark the tsunami anniversary.

The Archbishop of York: "As the SAS motto says, 'He who dares wins'"

The Archbishop of York called on worshippers to "out-imagine" suicide bombers. Dr John Sentamu said those who masterminded the terrorist networks were brilliant in inspiring those who came to their cause by giving them a vision that was tragically used solely for evil ends, he said.

Terrorism could only be overcome by offering a vision of wholeness in a compelling way that was so persuasive that would-be bombers would come to see this as their own vision, he told his Christmas Day congregation.

"Together, we can out-imagine, out-plan and out-think would-be bombers and turn would-be enemies into friends. This is what God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit did on the day Christ was born 2005 years ago," he said.

The Archbishop said the plan should include the creation of neighbourhoods that were flourishing, safe, clean and generous. "As we seek as a nation to address the evil of anyone who would wish to maim and kill others by suicide bombing, we need a three-pronged approach.

"First, to create neighbourhoods that are flourishing, safe, clean and generous. Secondly, to wake up to the truth that those who mastermind the terrorists networks are brilliant in inspiring those who come to their cause by giving them a vision which tragically is used solely for evil ends.

"Thirdly, the only way to overcome terrorism is to out-imagine it. As the SAS motto says 'He who dares wins!' That is - out-imagine your enemy."

Dr Sentamu, who was taking his first Christmas Day service as Archbishop of York, added: "Relying on tough laws alone won't do it. Trust in tough laws alone won't do it. Revenge and the desire to banish them to another island won't do it.

"On our own we can't get it together. Together we can get it."

Pope Benedict: "We can confront our many troubles"

Pope Benedict in his first Christmas address urged humanity to unite against terrorism, poverty and environmental blight and called for a "new world order" to correct economic imbalances.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in a rainy St Peter's square to hear his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message and blessing, which was also telecast to tens of millions of people in nearly 40 countries.

He also urged his listeners not to let technological achievements blind them to true human values. Humanity should look to the Christ child for encouragement in times of difficulty and fear.

"A united humanity will be able to confront the many troubling problems of the present time: from the menace of terrorism to the humiliating poverty in which millions of human beings live, from the proliferation of weapons to the pandemics and the environmental destruction which threatens the future of our planet," he said.

"Do not fear; put your trust in him! The life-giving power of his light is an incentive for building a new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships," he said, speaking in Italian.

The address by the leader of the world's some 1.1 billion Roman Catholics was different in style than those of his predecessor John Paul, who died last April. John Paul wrote his Christmas addresses in free-style verse and resembled poetry, whereas Benedict's was in prose like a normal homily or speech.

Gorillaz: "We're one step closer to the apocalypse"

The animated band screened their own version of the Queen's Christmas message yesterday on mobile phones.

Murdoc, the frontman, wearing a crown and perched on a throne, covered the demise of London's Routemaster bus, the rise of singer James Blunt and future scientific innovations in his State of the Nation address.

Murdoc, created by Albarn and collaborator, Jamie Hewlett, said: "We've all had so many 'ups and down' over the last year with toxic vapour clouds, earthquakes, face transplants, floods in Glastonbury and the end of the old Routemaster buses. But on the bad side, we've had new music from James Blunt - who needs Valium? - Westlife, and more films from Harry Potter. So it really does look like we're one step closer to the apocalypse, eh?"

Murdoc's mood would not have been improved by the album charts, where Westlife and Blunt are at three and four respectively, whilst Gorillaz are at nine. The speech was made to subscribers of Mobile Media Company 3. It will appear on the Gorillaz website on 1 January.

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