Christmas Defeats the Darkness of the "Culture of Death"

Pope Calls for Peace in Holy Land and Indonesia

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VATICAN CITY, DEC 25, 2000 (ZENIT.org).- In his Christmas message, John Paul II denounced the reigning "culture of death" that is producing pain in the Holy Land and Indonesia, as well as many other countries where the most fundamental human right -- the right to life -- is routinely violated.



The Holy Father spoke his traditional Message "Urbi et Orbi" [To the City of Rome and to the World] from the altar area of St. Peter´s Square instead of the balcony, so that he could be closer to the pilgrims. This also enabled him to make a trip around the square in the "Popemobile" after his address.

Some 80,000 people were gathered in the square to hear his words, which included Christmas greetings in 59 languages.

The Pope was in good humor and spoke with a firm voice, even after having celebrated the Midnight Mass in the open air for the first time in his Papacy, during which the pilgrims and the Holy Father had to face bitter cold and a dowpour. By the time of the midday "Urbi et Orbi" message, the rain had slowed to a slight drizzle and the temperature had climbed to a more comfortable level.

The Pope´s "imprudent" decision to celebrate this Mass in open air enabled 50,000 pilgrims to attend, compared to some 7,000 who would have been able to fit into the Basilica. That Mass ended at two a.m.

The Pope arrived at the end of the Christmas Day Mass, which was celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano. He began his message recalling how "the immortal genius of Michelangelo portrayed on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel the moment when God the Father communicated the gift of life to the first man and made him "a living being."

"It is to that instant of impenetrable mystery, the beginning of human life on earth, that our thoughts turn today, as we contemplate the Son of God who becomes the son of man, the eternal face of God reflected in the face of a Child," the Pope explained.

"From the manger, our gaze today takes in all humanity," said the Pope, recalling the first "no" of Adam, which wounded our nature, and our own sins, which continue to "mar the face of humanity: Children subjected to violence, humiliated and abandoned, women raped and exploited, young people, adults and the elderly marginalized, endless streams of exiles and refugees, violence and conflict in so many parts of the world."

The Holy Father continued, "I am thinking with great concern of the Holy Land where violence continues to stain with blood the difficult path to peace. And what are we to say about countries -- I am thinking particularly of Indonesia -- where our brothers and sisters in faith, even on this Christmas day, are undergoing a tragic time of trial and suffering?"

"We cannot but recall today that shadows of death threaten people´s lives at every stage of life," the Pope lamented, "and are especially menacing at its earliest beginning and its natural end. The temptation is becoming ever stronger to take possession of death by anticipating its arrival, as though we were masters of our own lives or the lives of others."

According to John Paul II, violence, abortion, and euthanasia are "alaarming signs of the ´culture of death,´ which pose a serious threat for the future."

"Yet however dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the Light which appeared on this Holy Night at Bethlehem is stronger still," he affirmed.

Not all the world is violence, however. The Pope recognized the silent work done by "men and women who daily live their faith, their work, their dedication to their families and to the good of society."

"Encouraging too are the efforts of all those, including men and women in public life, striving to foster respect for the human rights of every person, and the growth of solidarity between peoples of different cultures, so that the debt of the poorest countries will be condoned and honourable peace agreements reached," continued the Holy Father.

Thus, he concluded, "To peoples in all parts of the world who are moving with courage towards the values of democracy, freedom, respect and mutual acceptance, and to all persons of good will, whatever their culture, the joyful message of Christmas is today addressed: ´Peace on earth to those on whom God´s favour rests.´ "