- Title: VARIOUS: Christmas services held around the world.
- Date: 25th December 2005
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PEOPLE ATTENDING CHRISTMAS DAY PRAYERS (3 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 9th January 2006 12:00
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVAEAN96QS25CJPU1F6SLIKGTEPQ
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Pope Benedict, ushering in his first Christmas as Pontiff, on Sunday (December 25) urged the world's Catholics to be beacons of peace in a troubled world and offered a special prayer for an end to strife in the Holy Land.
The 78-year-old German-born pope, who was elected in April to succeed Pope John Paul, celebrated a solemn Christmas eve mass in St Peter's Basilica to lead the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics into one of the holiest seasons of the year.
Pilgrims and tourists had flocked from around the world to attend Benedict's first Christmas as Pope.
He urged his listeners to help to end conflicts and misunderstandings wherever they were found.
In Bethlehem, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was among those who celebrated midnight mass as the West Bank city began Christmas Day.
The city prepared on Saturday (December 24) to mark its first Christmas cut off from Jerusalem by an Israeli-built barrier, but is enjoying its biggest influx of pilgrims for years.
Until this year, Christmas celebrations had been muted because of the Palestinian uprising which began in 2000. But a 10-month-old ceasefire has encouraged a big increase in the number of pilgrims and tourists to the town.
And in another trouble-torn area, Baghdad, Christians gathered to celebrate the birth of Christ.
The Lady of Flowers church in central Baghdad was filled with Iraqi Christians on Sunday (December 25), all praying for peace in their war-racked country and the rest of the world.
As U.S. troops stood atop tanks with mounted machine guns outside the church, the ringing of bells and singing of hymns sounded out over Baghdad streets.
For Hani al-Beer, the Christmas day service and celebrations were a welcome relief from the daily bombings.
"The feast is a relief for the people. People united in this church pray for the world as a whole and for Iraq and for peace for all," he said.
In the United Kingdom, the Archbishop of Canterbury, recalled violence in the world, and urged Christians to embrace the power of forgiveness.
During his sermon at Canterbury Cathedral Rowan Williams focused on the importance of Christ's message.
Citing the example of Gee Walker, whose son Anthony was murdered in July, and that of the parents of Abigail Witchalls, who was left paralysed after a knife attack, Williams said they illustrated the difference made possible by the "miraculous love" offered by God to the human race.
Williams said, "Miraculous love is possible. The vilest offender, as the hymn says, is now deserving of attention and compassion; no life can be allowed to fall out of the circle of love."
In New York, at St. Patrick's Cathedral thousands packed into the Fifth Avenue church for a midnight mass on December 24, led by Cardinal Edward Egan.
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