The Pope managed to preside at the long Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, joined by 30 cardinals. The Mass was televised to about 70 countries.
At Christmas in this Year of the Eucharist, the Holy Father dedicated his homily to underline the intimate bond between the sacrament of the real presence of Christ, and the birth of Jesus two millenniums ago.
"Bethlehem! The city where Jesus was born in fulfillment of the Scriptures, in Hebrew means 'house of bread,'" John Paul II said. "It was there that the Messiah was to be born, the One who would say of himself: 'I am the bread of life.'
"In Bethlehem was born the One who, under the sign of broken bread, would leave us the memorial of his Pasch. On this holy night, adoration of the Child Jesus becomes Eucharistic adoration."
"We adore you, Lord, truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar, the living Bread which gives life to humanity," the Pope added in a homily that was shorter than those of past Christmas Eves. "We acknowledge you as our one God, a little Child lying helpless in the manger!"
"You are born on this Night, our divine Redeemer, and, in our journey along the paths of time, you become for us the food of eternal life," he said. "All humanity, with its burden of trials and troubles, stands in need of you."
He added: "Stay with us, living Bread which came down from heaven for our salvation! Stay with us forever!"