By Hilary White

ROME, January 3, 2006 ( – In his Wednesday, December 28 general audience address, Pope Benedict XVI said that “something of the splendour” of Christmas “shines on every child, even on those still unborn.”

20,000 people heard the Pope’s meditation on Psalm 138 in which, addressing God on the wonder of unborn human life, the Psalmist says, “Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before I came to be.”

The Pope said the Psalm is “a meditation on those who are weakest in their spiritual path in the Christian community.”

A passage of Psalm 138 reads, “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb…” The Pope said the passage means that “the loving eyes of God look on the human being, considered full and complete at its beginning.”

“It is extremely powerful, the idea in this psalm, that in this ‘unformed’ embryo God already sees the whole future,” Benedict said. “In the Lord’s book of life, the days that this creature will live and will fill with works during his time on earth are already written.”

Pontiff also raised the theme in his Christmas Eve mass on Saturday, saying the love of God shines on each child, “even on those still unborn.”

Benedict’s popularity belies the often negative coverage he receives in much of the mainstream press. According to a December 28 statement from the prefecture of the Pontifical Household, since his election in April, over 2.8 million people have already attended Masses and public audiences with Benedict. These numbers exceed those even of the wildly popular Pope John Paul II in the early days of the former Pope’s pontificate. The statement said that the numbers do not include the approximately one million who joined the Pope in Cologne, Germany for World Youth Day in August.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls director of the Vatican press office said that so great are the crowds attending the weekly Wednesday general audiences that they had to be moved outdoors.

“At other times, in other years, the general audiences in this period were held in Paul VI Hall,” Navarro Valls said “Now, they cannot be held there because of the number of people who come to the Wednesday audience.” He speculated to Vatican Radio whether the numbers who crowd the square for the weekly prayer and address with Benedict is an indication of a religious revival.