- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 25, 2001

From combined dispatches
VATICAN CITY Pope John Paul II, in his Christmas Eve sermon, said just after midnight yesterday that hearts around the world were anxious and distressed because of war and tension, but Christ's message of peace was still valid 2,000 years later.
"Yes, in this night filled with sacred memories, our trust in the redemptive power of the word made flesh is confirmed," he said in an advance text of his Mass homily issued by the Vatican.
"When darkness and evil seem to prevail, Christ tells us once more: Fear not! By coming into the world he has vanquished the power of evil, freed us from the slavery of death and brought us back to the banquet of life.
"These joyful tidings are also meant for us, the men and women of the dawn of the third millennium. Throughout the world, the community of believers gathers in prayer to listen to it once again. Amid the cold and snow of winter or in the torrid heat of the tropics, tonight is a Holy Night for all," he said.
The 81-year-old pope, celebrating the 24th Christmas season of his history-making papacy, said Christ's message of light and hope is still valid.
"But does this certainty of faith not seem to clash with the way things are today?" he asked. "If we listen to the relentless news headlines, these words of light and hope may seem like words from a dream. But that is precisely the challenge of faith, which makes this proclamation at once comforting and demanding.
"It makes us feel that we are wrapped in the tender love of God, while at the same time it commits us to a practical love of God and of our neighbor," he said.
The pope said each person was called on to overcome iniquity and become witnesses of solidarity and builders of peace.
"Let us go then to the cave of Bethlehem to meet him, and to meet, in him, all the world's children, every one of our brothers and sisters afflicted in body or oppressed in spirit," he said.
Yesterday, the Vatican said John Paul's appeal to fast on Dec. 14 in the name of peace and to donate the skipped meal money for victims of terrorism and of war has brought about $650,000 in donations.
Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the money would be used to help above all "children, the elderly, the sick, people left homeless and those most exposed to the danger of cold and of hunger in these winter months."
No specific recipient of the aid was cited.
"His Holiness thanks all those who wanted to respond generously to his appeal, and hopes that international solidarity continues to support populations in difficulty even beyond the emergency," Mr. Navarro-Valls said.
The pontiff chose the end of the Muslim period of Ramadan for the one-day fast, saying he hoped it would help build comprehension between Christians and Muslims.

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