Pope decries commercialisation of Christmas

THE Pope has decried the commercialisation of Christmas in his seasonal message to the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics,

lamenting that the true meaning of the day had become overshadowed by materialism.

Pope Benedict XVI, 84, urged people to see through the superficial glitter and commercialism of the festive season and rediscover the real significance of the birth of Jesus.

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The Pope in his Christmas homily, said: “Today, Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity.

“Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.

“Let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart.”

The Pope’s second Christmas message yesterday, urging peace, was marred by the death of at least 25 people in an explosion during Mass at a Catholic church in Nigeria.

The Pope had called for an end to bloodshed in Syria and a resumption of Middle East peace talks.

Addressing tens of thousands of people at St Peter’s Square in Rome, Pope Benedict said: “May the Lord come to the aid of our world torn by so many conflicts which even today stain the earth with blood.

“May the Prince of Peace grant peace and stability to that land where he chose to come into the world, and encourage the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

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

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The Pope also called for more help for those suffering from hunger, food shortages and displacement in the Horn of Africa, and for those affected by floods in Thailand and the Philippines.

The Archbishop of Canterbury used his Christmas Day sermon to highlight the “broken bonds and abused trust” of a society torn apart by riots and financial speculation.

Archbishop Rowan Williams asked the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent to learn lessons about “mutual obligation” from the events of the past year.

He said: “The most pressing question we now face, we might well say, is who and where we are as a society. Bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost.

“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.”

The Right Rev David Arnott, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who is visiting Bethlehem, spoke of the “inspiration” provided by the area’s Palestinian Christians, who clung to their faith despite being under constant threat.

He said: “Their capacity to keep on loving their enemy is a witness to the deep gift that love can and still does change lives.”

He added: “Peace on earth to all people of goodwill takes on a new significance for me this Christmas.”

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The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales offered prayers yesterday for people in Bethlehem at risk of losing their homes.

During his Midnight Mass sermon at Westminster Cathedral, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols spoke of 50 families in the West Bank whom he said could lose their land to Israel.