Thursday, December 28, 2006

Holy Father's Christmas Day message stressing the importance of spirituality in our modern era and reminding us that science has left much unsolved.

FROM: Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles TimesTuesday, December 26, 2006

(12-26) 04:00 PST Rome -- In a traditional and often-grim Christmas Day message, Pope Benedict XVI said a world that has achieved unimaginable technological progress still needs God in its unending confrontation with hunger, hatred and war.

Despite the Internet, globalized economies and the ability to send spacecraft to the moon and Mars, "how can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity ... the heartrending cry for help?" the pope asked.

Humankind's technological advance has not solved its most vexing problems, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church added.

"In this postmodern age, perhaps he (man) needs a savior all the more," the pontiff said, "since the society in which he lives has become more complex, and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious."

Draped in golden vestments, Benedict marked his second Christmas as pope, delivering the annual message "Urbi et Orbi" -- Latin for "to the city and the world" -- from the central balcony of the majestic St. Peter's Basilica. Tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists, in chilly sunshine, filled the square below to hear the noontime address, which was broadcast to 40 nations.

St. Peter's Square is an especially popular attraction at Christmas. It is decorated this year by a 109-foot fir tree from southern Italy's Sila National Park, said to be the tallest Christmas tree ever to grace the Vatican, and a larger-than-life Nativity scene.

The papal Christmas Day message is often used to give a sobering account of the state of world affairs, the conflicts and disease plaguing humanity and the way that the faith born with Jesus can provide solace.

"Who can defend him (man), if not the one who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the cross his only-begotten son as the savior of the world?" Benedict said.

He cited "with deep apprehension" the Middle East, "marked by so many grave crises and conflicts," and urged the path be opened "to a just and lasting peace, with respect for the inalienable rights of the peoples living there."

"I place in the hands of the divine child of Bethlehem the indications of a resumption of dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians, which we have witnessed in recent days, and the hope of further encouraging developments," the pope added, alluding to Saturday's rare meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Benedict also called for the survival of a "democratic Lebanon, open to others and in dialogue with different cultures and religions," and appealed "to all those who hold in their hands the fate of Iraq" that they work to find an end to "brutal violence."

He also prayed for the end to fratricidal fighting in Darfur and elsewhere in Africa and for the continent's "open wounds" to heal.

"Is a savior still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature's secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvelous codes of the human genome?" the pope said.

"This humanity of the 21st century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs," he continued. "So it would seem, yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism."

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