Christmas Day is celebrated across the world with traditional rituals and prayers focusing mainly on peace messages. In his Christmas speech, Pope Benedict XVI prays for peace in Syria. Many people gather at the St Catherine Church in Bethlehem, where Jesus is believed to be born.
Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the solemn Christmas Eve mass in St Peter’s Basilica at The Vatican on December 25, 2012, during which he appealed for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and an end to the civil war in Syria. Christians around the world, as well as in Turkey, celebrated Christmas yesterday as many people visited an ancient Bethlehem church and many others listened to the pope’s speech in Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI called for an “end to the bloodshed” in conflict-wracked Syria in a Christmas message that touched on several other conflict zones.
“There is hope in the world … even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations,” he said, praying that “peace spring up for the people of Syria.” Speaking from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, he called “for an end to the bloodshed … and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution.”
A capacity crowd of 40,000 pilgrims filled the vast St. Peter’s Square to hear the 85-year-old pope deliver the message. His message also pointed to hotspots across Africa and urged religious freedom in China, and as usual called for peace in the Middle East. He notably lamented “savage acts of terrorism” that frequently target Christian churches in Nigeria.
The most senior Roman Catholic bishop in the Middle East appealed for peace in the Middle East and issued a special call for efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the Bethlehem midnight Mass.
“Only justice and peace in the Holy Land can reestablish balance and stability in the region and in the world,” Patriarch Fuad Twal told a crowd packed into St. Catherine Church, which adjoins the Church of the Nativity.
Turkey joins celebrations
Christmas was also celebrated by Christians in Turkey. Christians in Istanbul gathered at St. Anthony of Padua Church on İstiklal Avenue in the crowded Taksim neighborhood on Dec. 24. Priest Antonio led the Christmas Eve ritual, which was done in English, Turkish and Italian.
The Fener Greek Orthodox patriarch in Istanbul held a Christmas ritual at the Church of St. George early in the morning. Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew attended the ceremony.
A Christmas ritual took place at the House of Virgin Mary in Selçuk town of İzmir on Dec. 24. Christians in the southeastern province of Hatay, bordering Syria, also celebrated Christmas at the Greek Orthodox Church in İskenderun district. The Catholic Church of Mersin in the southern province held a Masse. Also rituals took place at the Virgin Mary Church in the eastern province of Diyarbakir.