Frightening picture of Pope Benedict XVI at Christmas midnight mass

POPE Benedict has ushered in Christmas at midnight mass, saying the image of the baby Jesus born in a manger should remind everyone of the plight of poor, abused and neglected children the world over.

The 79-year-old Benedict, marking the second Christmas season of his pontificate, celebrated the mass for more than 10,000 people in St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Thousands of others watched on large screens outside on a clear, starry night and millions more tuned in via television or radio round the world.

"The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children, particularly those who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn," the Pope said in his homily, making a reference to abortion.

"Towards children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world; towards children who have to beg; towards children who suffer deprivation and hunger; towards children who are unloved. In all of these it is the Child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us. It is the God who has become small who appeals to us."

Just as the shepherds of Bethlehem were called by an angel to seek the child lying in the manger, modern man was called to listen to the message of the baby Jesus, the Pope said.

"Let us pray this night that the brightness of God's love may enfold all these children. Let us ask God to help us do our part so that the dignity of children may be respected. May they all experience the light of love, which mankind needs so much more than the material necessities of life," he said.

The mass is being broadcast on 73 television stations in 47 countries, with another 11 news outlets buying rights to images or rebroadcasts, according to the Vatican.

The mass in Latin, the universal language of the Roman Catholic Church, was to be punctuated by readings in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Polish. The traditional prayers of the faithful were to be done in Portuguese, Arabic and the Philippine language Tagalog.

Later today, the Pope will pronounce the traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message from the balcony of Saint Peter's, to an even greater audience watching 102 television stations in 63 countries.

On Sunday the Pope used his pre-Christmas Angelus blessing to underline the "value of every human life'' amid controversy over the death of Italian right-to-die campaigner Piergiorgio Welby.

"The birth of Christ helps us to be aware of what human life is worth, the value of every human life, from his first moment to his natural decline,'' the Pope said.

Mr Welby, who died on Wednesday, had a civil funeral in Rome on Sunday after Italy's Roman Catholic church refused religious rites for the muscular dystrophy victim.

Mr Welby's activism has sparked a debate on euthanasia in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy, where it is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, although patients are legally allowed to refuse care.

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1 comment:

markali52 said...

I live in the Calabria region and I have seen him on numerous occasions on my travels, he always looks scary to me. Great photo