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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 January, 2004, 14:22 GMT
Pope calls for fairer world order
By Frances Kennedy
BBC, Rome

Pope John Paul II
The Pope appeared alert as he read his address
The Pope has celebrated his traditional New Year's mass in St Peter's Basilica with a forceful call for peace and a new fairer world order.

Today is the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace and there have been marches and gatherings in more than 70 countries.

The pontiff, who looked frail but alert, read his entire homily.

He called for a new international order based on the goals of the United Nations to secure peace.

His alert appearance was despite a tiring schedule of festive celebrations.

To achieve peace, he said, there was the need for a new respect for international law.

Dignity and equality

A new world order was also required, he said, one that was based on the dignity of man and equality between nations, that built on the experience of the United Nations but could provide solutions to today's problems.

In a formal document earlier this month on peace, the Pope said a new respect for international law was the only way to face the threat of terrorism and avoid the arbitrary use of force.

The pontiff has been a vocal critic of the United States' war in Iraq.

While appealing for an end to violence in the Middle East and Africa, the pontiff today recalled the sacrifice of his ambassador in Burundi, who was killed by gunmen in an ambush this week.

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