By Hilary White

ROME, December 23, 2005 ( – Pope Benedict XVI, in his first Christmas address as Pope, has led the Cardinals of the Curia, the Vatican’s version of a cabinet, in a meditation on the events of the past year for the Church and the world.

Starting with a reminiscence of his friend, mentor and predecessor, Pope John Paul II, Benedict asked the rhetorical questions that summarize the thoughts of many in the troubled world. John Paul, the Pope said, asked in his last book if evil were the last word. “Is evil perhaps invincible? Is it really the ultimate power in history?… Is there a limit against which the power of evil is shattered?”

“Yes,” Benedict said. “The power which limits evil is divine mercy. Divine mercy opposes violence and the posturing of evil – as the “totally other” of God, as the power of God – throughout history. We can say with the Apocalypse that the lamb is stronger than the dragon.”

The Pope said that the example of John Paul’s personal suffering shows the world that hope is not ultimately found in human systems or solutions. “The passion of Christ on the Cross gave a radically new meaning to suffering, he transformed it from within… it is a suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love.”

Speaking about his trip to Cologne, Germany for World Youth Day, Benedict included himself when he said, “All those who participated in World Youth Day shall cherish it as a great gift.”

“Other than their normal patrolling duties, police had little to do. The Lord had evidently gathered his flock from beyond every border and barrier. In the great communion that we became, he made us feel His presence.”

The Pope gave thanks for the Bishops’ Synod, the gathering of hundreds of bishops around the world. He also commemorated the 40th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, of which he said that a true interpretation had not yet found its place in the Church.

He especially thanked all those who so joyfully greeted him as the Pope in April. He admitted to his “fright” when he was elected, saying, “The tasks that the office entails are beyond what I could have imagined myself capable of. Only by placing my trust in God was I able to obey and say ‘Yes’ to this choice.”

Millions of people around the world are expected to watch the Pope’s televised Christmas Mass on Sunday, which will be broadcast over 124 television networks reaching 74 different countries. Pope Benedict’s Urbi et Orbi, (the City and the World) message will be given from the loggia and will be broadcast over 111 television chains, to 68 countries.

Read the full text of the Pope’s speech:


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