Around the world, Christmas observed
in face of tensions, crises
December 25, 1996
Web posted at: 10:35 a.m. EST (1535 GMT)
In this story:
(CNN) -- Pope John Paul II wished the world a happy Christmas
in 55 languages Wednesday but said the spirit of the nativity
was marred by tensions in the Holy Land and international
indifference to the tragedy in Africa.
Bethlehem, where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was
born, celebrated its second Christmas under Palestinian rule.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was among those who attended
a Christmas Day mass at the Church of the Nativity.
In India, Mother Teresa, recovering from heart surgery, led a
Christmas Holy Mass at her Calcutta mission.
In the pope's "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world)
message, the 76-year-old leader of the Roman Catholic Church
said Christmas meant not being resigned to violence and
injustice but striving to overcome hatred and returning to
The pontiff, who this year did not celebrate a Christmas Day
Mass for health reasons, also celebrated a midnight Mass in
St. Peter's Basilica 12 hours before his "Urbi et Orbi"
(617K/14 sec. QuickTime movie)
In his Christmas greeting, John Paul spoke to thousands of
people gathered under dark skies in a rainy St. Peter's
He said that while the past year had brought peace to Bosnia,
Guatemala and elsewhere, it was sorely lacking in many other
"I am thinking of Bethlehem and all the Holy Land, where
Jesus was born and lived: the land that he loved, the land
where hope must not die, despite provocations and profound
differences," he said.
He spoke of "unjustifiable violence" in Algeria, shaken by
attacks by Islamic fundamentalists.
In a reference to ethnic bloodshed in central Africa, the
Pope said "this young continent is experiencing, amid the
general indifference of the international community, one of
the cruelest human tragedies of its history."
At Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, Latin Patriarch Michel
Sabbah delivered an unusually tough sermon, criticizing
Israel's rough treatment of Palestinians and religious
leaders on both sides who foster extremism.
Outside, workers swept away the debris of the carnival-like
Christmas Eve celebrations that drew thousands of
Palestinians and tourists.
A joyous crowd of thousands also danced to Arabic pop music,
drowning out the words of Sabbah, whose sermon also was
projected on an outdoor screen.
Revered Catholic nun Mother Teresa, 86, was resting on
doctors' orders after leading a Christmas Day Mass.
On Tuesday night, the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize winner noted for
her work with the poor and dying also led a Christmas Eve
Mass at her mission. It was held four hours before the
customary midnight mass out of concern for her health.
Elsewhere in the world:
Bosnia -- The Catholic minority in Sarajevo celebrated a
subdued Christmas amid a Muslim extremist campaign against
Santa Claus and growing fears about the city's multi-cultural
Western officials have reported that extremists were
campaigning against school displays of the local version of
Santa Claus, "Old Man Frost," which they regard as
Croat Catholics in the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Banja Luka
went without their Christmas midnight Mass on Tuesday night
for the fifth consecutive year, amid continuing security
- Peru -- Christmas carols were sung and volunteers handed
out plastic cups of hot chocolate at a vigil outside the
besieged Japanese ambassador's residence where 105 hostages
were in their eighth day of captivity by Tupac Amaru rebels.
Red Cross workers delivered Christmas Eve dinner along with
sacramental wine and communion wafers for a midnight Mass led
by a captured priest who has voluntarily stayed with the
hostages. Hot chocolate and traditional Christmas cake also
were brought in.
(713K/14 sec. QuickTime movie)
- Zaire -- Christmas prayers for peace
held a special poignancy for civilians in rebel-held eastern
Zaire, where they fear a successful counter-offensive by the
The Roman Catholic cathedral in Goma, the largest city taken
by rebels, was packed with hundreds of worshippers for a
"midnight" Mass, which ended three hours early because of
- Sri Lanka -- Tamil rebels began an undeclared Christmas
truce in their 13-year old war for independence, rebel and
government sources said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Related stories and movies:
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.