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Saturday, 25 December, 1999, 14:44 GMT
Pope urges end to 'senseless' violence

The last papal Christmas blessing of the century The last papal Christmas blessing of the century

Pope John Paul II has delivered his traditional Christmas message, giving a sombre assessment of the millennium as it comes to an end.

Addressing tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square, in Rome, he called for an end to the "senseless" use of arms and violence, saying hatred had doomed individuals, peoples and entire continents.

"We thank you for all the good of the years, centuries and millennia which have passed," he prayed.

"We must, however, confess that humanity has sometimes sought the truth elsewhere, invented false certainties and chased after deceptive ideologies."

At times this world neither respects nor loves life
Pope John Paul II
Looking tired and sounding frail at times, the 79-year-old pontiff said humanity had failed to respect people's race and religion and had denied fundamental human rights.

But he made no specific mention of current conflicts around the world.

The Pope did make a clear reference to abortion and euthanasia.

He asked God to "enlighten people's minds, so that legislators and political leaders, men and women of good will, may be committed to welcoming human life as a precious gift".

"At times this world neither respects nor loves life."

'Great Jubilee'

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says fewer people than usual gathered in cold, cloudy weather to hear the last papal Christmas blessing of the century.

Holy Door of St Peter's Basilica Opening the door on a new millennium
The crowd interrupted frequently to applaud the Pope's greetings, delivered in 58 different languages.

John Paul read his message some 12 hours after fulfilling a dream of his papacy when he opened the Holy Door of St Peter's Basilica to usher in the Catholic Church's millennium celebrations.

The Church's "Great Jubilee of the Year 2000", as he has named it, is a whole year of pilgrimages, special masses, concerts of sacred music and Papal audiences.

In another seasonal message of peace, Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Belo urged the people of East Timor to work together to rebuild their shattered country.

He asked them to show forgiveness after the violence that followed the territory's August vote for independence from Indonesia.

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See also:
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19 Dec 99 |  Middle East
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