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Pope says peace is our greatest hope this Christmas

Humanity longs for peace above all this Christmas, John Paul II said at an audience in the Vatican on Sunday.

"It is up to believers, with the eloquence of love expressed in deeds, to become every day a prophetic ferment of a world reconciled by love and vivified by divine joy," the Holy Father told visitors and pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.

Following a tradition, thousands of Roman boys and girls came to pray the Angelus with the Pope at midday on Sunday, and to have their figurines of the Christ Child blessed. The children will use them in the Nativity cribs at home.

The Holy Father addressed them and thanked them for coming, invoking "peace and serenity for you and your family" this Christmas.

In his brief address, John Paul II said that the Christmas message is meant especially for all the poor and those living in anguish.

"Joy is the heart of the Gospel of Christmas," he said. "As an expert Mother, the Church knows better than any other institution the difficulties and sufferings proper to human life."

He continued: "It well understands that in the life of so many peoples and individuals, sadness prevails over joy, anguish over hope, but it is precisely to these men and women that the Christmas message is especially proclaimed, because Christ announced the Gospel of salvation to the poor, 'liberty to prisoners, joy to the afflicted.'"

Pope's Angelus Address (16/12/01)