- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 1, 2003

VATICAN CITY, Vatican City, Jan. 1 (UPI) — Pope John Paul II, marking the World Day of Peace, called Wednesday for a lasting peace in the Middle East and asked other world leaders to find ways to avoid military confrontations to solve international conflicts.

The pope spoke before thousands of people listening in St. Peter's Basilica, saying, "Despite serious and repeated attempts to upset the peace and harmony of peoples living together, peace is possible and necessary," according to the Vatican's Web site.

John Paul echoed the message he issued about two weeks ago in advance of this week's event with his homily on New Year's Day, the church's 36th World Day of Peace. The pontiff's sermon was interrupted several times with applause. The World Day of Peace was established by Pope John XXIII.

"How not to look at that holy place where Jesus was born with anxiety and sorrow?" the pontiff asked.

"How not to express once more the wish that on the part of those who are in charge, everything is made for peaceful solutions to the several tensions under way to be found, particularly in the Middle East, so as to prevent further suffering to those people who have already gone through so much?"

The pope, 82, has been in frail health in recent years and did not say mass during Wednesday's celebrations, allowing several cardinals to concelebrate the rite, but he did appear later at a recitation of the Angelus before a crowd in St. Peter's Square and giving a blessing in several languages.


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