The 83-year-old Polish Pope, marking the 26th Christmas of his pontificate, made his "Urbi et Orbi" address on Thursday to thousands of people in Vatican City's St Peter's Square.

 

The Pope, who made his address while seated, opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq and  expressed deep frustration over the endless violence in the Holy Land, referring to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

 

Difficult paths

   

He made another reference to the need for Middle East peace saying: "Save us from discouragement as we face the paths to peace, difficult paths indeed, yet possible and therefore necessary; paths which are always and everywhere urgent, especially in the land where you (Jesus) were born, the Prince of Peace."

   

He read the address with difficulty, as opposed to his sermon at a midnight mass the night before when his voice was clear and strong.

   

"Save us from the evils which rend humanity in these first years of the third millennium," he said, speaking from the steps of St Peter's Basilica, the largest church in Christendom.

   

"Save us from the wars and armed conflicts which lay waste to whole areas of the world, from the scourge of terrorism and from the many forms of violence which assail the weak the vulnerable."