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Briefly: Europe

- - Sunday, December 25, 2011

UNITED KINGDOM

Queen Elizabeth stresses importance of family

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has stressed the importance of family and friendship in her annual, pre-recorded Christmas message to the nation.

The theme of her broadcast was especially poignant Sunday as Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, remained in the hospital recovering from a heart procedure. The message was recorded Dec. 9, before he was hospitalized.

Wearing a festive red dress, the queen said the importance of family was driven home by the marriages of two of her grandchildren this year.

She spoke of the strength family can provide during times of hardship and how friendships are often formed in difficult times.

Elizabeth pointed to the Commonwealth nations as an example that family "does not necessarily mean blood relatives but often a description of a community."

RUSSIA

Three people dead in storm off east coast

MOSCOW — Rescue vessels and a helicopter were searching for five people missing in a fierce storm off Russia's east coast after a Cambodia-flagged ship sank early Sunday.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry said it had recovered three bodies from the icy waters of La Perouse Strait, which lies between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan.

The accident took place in the same waters in which a Russian floating oil rig capsized and sank Dec. 18, killing 17 people. Thirty-six people are still missing, feared dead.

Officials said five of the Cambodia-flagged ship's crew members were Russian and the others are Indonesian. Two of the dead have been identified as Russian nationals, and one remains unidentified.

The ship, named Ginga, was sailing through the Russian waters from a Japanese port. Russian news agencies reported it was a fishing boat.

Emergencies Ministry representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Two trawlers, a Russian helicopter, a rescue vessel, two steamboats and a Japanese maritime safety department ship were conducting the search. Efforts were hampered by strong winds and high waves.

Nikolay Sukhanov, a top official from Russia's Sailors Union, told RIA Novosti he thought the size of the crew, its flag and route could suggest that the ship was poaching in the waters on the Russian-Japanese maritime border.

VATICAN CITY

Pope urges end to Syria bloodshed

Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to the bloodshed in Syria and the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in his Christmas message Sunday, an appeal for peace that was challenged by deadly attacks on Nigerian churches.

Benedict delivered his "Urbi et Orbi" speech (Latin for "to the city and to the world") from the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica overlooking a sun-drenched piazza below, before thousands of jubilant tourists and pilgrims, and hundreds of colorful Swiss Guards and Italian military bands.

The 84-year-old, fresh off a late-night Christmas Eve Mass, said he prayed that the birth of Jesus, which Christmas celebrates, would send a message to all who need to be saved from hardships.

He cited refugees from the Horn of Africa and flood victims in Thailand, among others, and called for greater political dialogue in Myanmar, and stability in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa's Great Lakes region.

He said he prayed that God would help the Israelis and the Palestinians resume talks.

"May He bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed," he said.

GREAT BRITAIN

Archbishop: Bonds, trust broken in Britain

LONDON — The summer riots in Britain and the financial crisis have broken bonds and abused trust in British society, the archbishop of Canterbury said in his Christmas Day sermon.

Archbishop Rowan Williams appealed to those congregated at Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday to learn lessons about "mutual obligation" from the events of the past year.

Citing the four days of British riots and the current European debt crisis, the archbishop said "the most pressing question" now facing Britain is "who and where we are as a society."

"Bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost," he said. "Whether it is an urban rioter mindlessly burning down a small shop that serves his community, or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today's financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark."

Archbishop Williams, leader of the world's Anglicans, also quoted from the Book of Common Prayer in his sermon to say that if offenses are against one's neighbors, one should be ready to make restitution.

From wire dispatches and staff reports