In a Christmas Day message to a world where he said the "clamor of hate" resounds, Pope John Paul II on Thursday denounced riches spent on weapons and thanked those who have listened to messengers of peace.
After celebrating Christmas Day Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope stepped out on the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square to greet thousands of faithful and tourists who shivered in weather that was unseasonably cold for Mediterranean Rome.
A 22-foot Christmas tree trimmed with silver tinsel swayed in the biting wind in the center of the square.
The pontiff's golden robes and the Vatican banner flapped in the wind as he delivered his traditional Christmas Day message "Urbi et Orbi," Latin for "to the city and the world."
"The bishop of Rome, on Christmas Day, thanks once more all those who have listened to the message of Francis . . . the promoter of peace on Earth," John Paul said.
Invokes St. Francis
He referred several times to St. Francis of Assisi and the Oct. 27 gathering in that Umbrian hill town of world religious representatives praying for peace.
"The bishop of Rome thanks . . . each and every one for that special day when we decided--before all the powers of this Earth, which swallow up in weapons incalculable wealth, which waste on unnecessary things precious resources and arouse fear of apocalyptic destructions--before all these menacing powers we decided to be poor, poor like Christ . . . poor like Francis," the Pope said.
"Should there not fall silent the clamor of hate and the noise of death-dealing explosions in so many places on Earth?" he asked.
"Should not God be able to hear at last the voice of our silence? That through silence there should reach him the prayer and the supplication of so many people of good will?" the pontiff continued. "The supplication of so many tormented hearts, the voice of so many millions of people who have no voice?"
God's 'Dwelling Place'
Saying that God chose the Earth "as his dwelling place," John Paul asked: "Is it possible to destroy the dwelling place of God in the midst of men? Is it not rather necessary to change radically the plans of human domination over the Earth?"
He ended the message by saying: "Only love . . . can transform the face of our planet, turning minds and hearts to thoughts of fraternity and peace.
"Men and women of the world, Christ asks us to love one another. This is the message of Christmas, this is the good wish that I address to all from the bottom of my heart."
Greetings in 52 Tongues
The Pope gave his speech in Italian. Then he wished, in 52 languages, a happy Christmas and peace to people all over the world.
He ended in Latin, the official language of the Roman Catholic Church. In between, he offered greetings in Portuguese, German, several East European languages including his native Polish, Ethiopian, Hebrew, Finnish, Maltese, Swahili, Urdu, Vietnamese and Tagalog.