Pope laments ‘grim sound of arms’ from Iraq to Sri Lanka

VATICAN CITY, Dec 25, 2007 (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday lamented the “grim sound of arms” in the world’s conflict zones, from Sudan to Sri Lanka and especially the volatile Middle East, in his Christmas message. “On this day of peace, my thoughts turn especially to those places where the grim sound of arms continues to reverberate,” he said, emphasising “the whole of the Middle East — especially Iraq, Lebanon and the Holy Land.”

The leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics spoke as two suicide bombings killed 29 people in Iraq on Tuesday, apparently targetting groups fighting Al-Qaeda militants.

Benedict also singled out Darfur, Somalia, the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Balkans and “many other crisis situations that unfortunately are frequently forgotten.”

Pilgrims filled a sun-drenched St Peter’s Square, shouting “viva!” and applauding as the German pope began delivering his traditional Christmas blessing, “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World).

The Vatican’s Swiss Guard corps in their colourful striped uniforms opened the ceremony with military precision, saluting the pope as he prepare