Leaders speak out on Christmas

United Press International
Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the midnight Christmas mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on December 24, 2012. UPI/Stefano Spazani
Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the midnight Christmas mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on December 24, 2012. UPI/Stefano Spazani | License Photo

Spanish King Juan Carlos addressed the country's recession during his annual Christmas speech, saying austerity measures should not compromise social rights.

"Any austerity measures must be compatible with economic growth and the protection of social rights and, in the face of the division that has arisen between the public and government institutions, the latters' policies must be a necessary instrument to escape the recession," Juan Carlos said Tuesday.


The king said although Spain is going through one of the most difficult moments in recent history, confidence in government policies would in turn lead to confidence in Spain in financial markets, ThinkSpain reported.

"The Crown is very conscious of the efforts and sacrifices being made by society and which affect every aspect of life -- no effort in life is in vain, and neither will the efforts being made now be so," Juan Carlos said.

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French President Francois Hollande declined to take a Christmas holiday, Radio France Internationale reported. Instead, Hollande, who is in his first term as president, "will spend all his time in Paris and work every day", the Elysee Palace said.

Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf called on the public in his traditional Christmas Day speech to do more to combat climate change, the Swedish news agency TT reported.


"More people in the world need to move from speech to action when it comes to handling the environment and climate issues," the king said.

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"I have participated in many meetings about the environment and the importance of sustainability. We want future generations to be able to breathe fresh air and drink clean water. And so we have to find new ways for our Earth to function in the future, too," Gustaf said.

Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to fighting in Syria and the leader of the Roman Catholic church in Jerusalem called Christmas the "birth" of Palestine.

"I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced," Benedict said during his Christmas message, known as the Urbi et Orbi.

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The United Nations estimates 45,000 people have died in Syria since an anti-government uprising began in March 2011.

"May peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenseless and reaps innocent victims," the pope said.

Midnight mass in Vatican City was held 2 hours early at St. Peter's Square to avoid tiring the 85-year-old pope, the BBC reported.

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Benedict urged Christians to "find time and room for God in their fast-paced lives."

Fouad Twal, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem, said in Bethlehem Christmas "is also a celebration of ... the birth of the state of Palestine."

Twal alluded to the U.N. recognition of the Palestinian Authority as an independent sovereign state, Arutz Sheva reported. The United Nations passed a resolution in November granting Palestine the status of a non-member observer state, similar to that of the Vatican.

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The Jordanian-born Twal led midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square in Bethlehem, which is considered by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, used his sermon at Christmas Eve midnight mass to speak out against the British government's plan to legalize gay marriage, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Nichols said the government's plan to allow gay marriage was made in defiance of public opinion.

"There was no announcement in any party manifesto, no Green Paper, no statement in the Queen's Speech. And yet here we are on the verge of primary legislation," he said.

Nichols accused the government of wrongly promoting homosexuality.


"Sometimes sexual expression can be without the public bond of the faithfulness of marriage and its ordering to new life. Even governments mistakenly promote such patterns of sexual intimacy as objectively to be approved and even encouraged among the young," he said.

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