Christmas celebrations reflect on war, hardship

VATICAN CITY, December 25, 2008 (AFP) – War and economic hardship loomed over Christmas celebrations across the world Thursday, with Pope Benedict XVI denouncing greed and pleading for an end to violence in the Middle East.

The pontiff lamented that “the horizon seems once again bleak for Israelis and Palestinians,” and he decried the conflicts and poverty plaguing Africa.

“May the divine light of Bethlehem radiate throughout the Holy Land, (bringing) forth rich fruit from the efforts of all those who (shun) the twisted logic of conflict and violence,” Pope Benedict XVI said in his traditional address in St Peter’s Square.

“This light … is besought by the people of Zimbabwe, in Africa, trapped for all too long in a political and social crisis which, sadly, keeps worsening,” the pope said, watched by thousands in the huge square.

Benedict, whose message was also broadcast to millions worldwide, said “interminable sufferings are the tragic consequence of the lack of stability and peace” in Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Somalia.

“Let us pray that peace will be established (in the Middle East), that hatred and violence will cease,” the pope said earlier during his midnight mass Christmas homi