ROME (JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI ushered in Christmas with a call for peace in the Middle East.
In his homily during Midnight Mass early Thursday in St. Peter’s Basilica, the 81-year-old pontiff appealed for peace in "the land in which Jesus lived, and which he loved so deeply."
Benedict, who reports say will visit the Holy Land in May, called for prayers "that peace will be established there, that hatred and violence will cease. Let us pray for mutual understanding, that hearts will be opened, so that borders can be opened. Let us pray that peace will descend there, the peace of which the angels sang that night."
The pope also appealed for an end to the exploitation of children as soldiers and as victims of the pornography industry and "every other appalling form of abuse."