Pope Benedict XVI: 'Signs of Middle East hope need to be confirmed by action'

From the Catholic pontiff's first Christmas 'Urbi et Orbi' message to the world, delivered at St Peter's Square in Rome

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Today we can dispose of vast material resources. But the men and women in our technological age risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements, ending up in spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart. That is why it is so important for us to open our minds and hearts to the birth of Christ, this event of salvation which can give new hope to the life of each human being.

May the God who became man out of love for humanity strengthen all those in Africa who work for peace, integral development and the prevention of fratricidal conflicts, for the consolidation of the present, still fragile political transitions, and the protection of the most elementary rights of those experiencing tragic humanitarian crises, such as those in Darfur and in other regions of central Africa. May he lead the peoples of Latin America to live in peace and harmony. May he 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; may he favour the process of dialogue on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere in the countries of Asia, so that, by the settlement of dangerous disputes, consistent and peaceful conclusions can be reached in a spirit of friendship, conclusions which their peoples expectantly await.

At Christmas, we contemplate God made man, divine glory hidden beneath the poverty of a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger; the creator of the universe reduced to the helplessness of an infant. Once we accept this paradox, we discover the truth that sets us free and the love that transforms our lives.

With the shepherds let us enter the stable of Bethlehem beneath the loving gaze of Mary, the silent witness of his miraculous birth. May she help us to experience the happiness of Christmas, may she teach us how to treasure in our hearts the mystery of God who for our sake became man; and may she help us to bear witness in our world to his truth, his love and his peace.

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