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Pope condemns 'oppressors' in Christmas message


VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI prayed for God to punish the world's "oppressors" and bring about "true brotherhood" between peoples in his traditional Christmas message in Saint Peter's basilica.

"Lord make your promise come finally true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots. Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end," Benedict said at the Christmas Eve mass in the basilica.

Referring to the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated by believers at Christmas, he added: "This child has ignited the light of goodness in men and has given them strength to overcome the tyranny of might.

"We thank you for your goodness, but we also ask you to show forth your power," said the pope, who was speaking exactly one year after a mentally unstable Swiss-Italian woman dragged him to the ground at the same mass.

The incident on Christmas Eve 2009 left the pope unharmed and he continued with the mass. But a senior French cardinal, Roger Etchegaray, broke his leg.

This year the pope was kept further away from attendees at the mass during his procession to the altar and more security guards were drafted in.
In his Christmas message, the pope also prayed for "true brotherhood."

"Help us to recognize your face in others who need our assistance, in those who are suffering or forsaken, in all people, and help us to live together with you as brothers and sisters, so as to become one family, your family," he said.

The spiritual leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics has had a troubled year, clouded by hundreds of accusations against pedophile priests around Europe and the United States, as well as alleged cover-ups by senior clergy.

In a book of interviews entitled Light of the World and published last month, the pope described the scale of abuse as an "unprecedented shock."

He likened the crisis to "a volcano out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything.

"It is necessary for the Church to be vigilant, to punish those who have sinned, and above all to exclude them from further access to children."

Benedict has apologized, met with victims and approved stricter rules for dealing with predator priests but he has come under fire from campaigners for not doing enough to punish senior bishops responsible for hiding the abuses.

The 83-year-old German pope also said he could resign if he realized he was "no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable" of staying on.
But comments in the book that drew the most attention were about condoms, which he said could be acceptable in some cases. The Vatican later clarified that the pope only meant this in the case of sex workers who were HIV positive. (AFP)

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