1. "Christ is our peace", "Christ is our peace; he has made the two into one people" (cf. Eph 2:14). At the dawn of the new millennium, which began with so much hope but is now threatened by dark clouds of violence and war, the words of the Apostle Paul which we listen to this Christmas are a powerful ray of light, a cry of trust and optimism.

The Divine Child born in Bethlehem brings in his little hands as a gift the key to peace for mankind. He is the Prince of Peace! This is the joyful news which echoed that night in Bethlehem, and which I wish to reaffirm before the world on this blessed day.

Let us listen once more to the words of the angel: "I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:10-11).

On this day the Church echoes the song of the angels and repeats their astonishing message, which first amazed the shepherds on the hills above Bethlehem.

2. "Christ is our peace!" Christ, "the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in the manger" (Lk 2:12), is indeed our peace. A helpless Newborn Child in a lowly cave restores dignity to every life being born, and brings hope to those overcome by doubt and discouragement. He has come to heal life's wounds and to restore meaning to death itself.

In that Child, meek and defenceless, crying in a cold and bare cave, God has destroyed sin, and planted the seed of a new humanity, called to bring to fulfilment the original plan of creation and to transcend it through the grace of redemption.

3. "Christ is our peace!" Men and women of the third millennium, you who hunger for justice and peace, accept the message of Christmas, which today rings out around the world! Jesus was born to strengthen the bonds uniting individuals and peoples, to make them all, in himself, brothers and sisters. He came to break down "the dividing wall of hostility" (Eph 2:14) and to make one family of all mankind.

Yes, we can repeat with certainty: Today, in the Incarnate Word, peace is born! Peace to be implored, for God alone is its source and guarantee. Peace to be forged in a world in which peoples and nations, burdened with so many and such varied difficulties, hope for a new humanity united not just by economic interests but by the unceasing effort to bring about a society that is more just and supportive.

4. Let us hasten like the shepherds to Bethlehem, let us pause in adoration in the cave, and gaze upon the Newborn Redeemer. In him we can recognize the face of every little child who is born, of whatever race or nation: the little Palestinian and the little Israeli; the little American and the little Afghan; the child of the Hutu and the child of the Tutsi...whoever the child is, to Christ each one is special.

Today my thoughts go to all the children of the world: so many, too many are the children condemned from birth to suffer through no fault of their own the effects of cruel conflicts. Let us save the children, in order to save the hope of humanity! This is what we are urgently called to do by that Child born in Bethlehem, the God who became man, to give us back the right to hope.

5. Let us beg from Christ the gift of peace for all who are suffering as a result of conflicts old and new. Day after day, I bear in my heart the tragic problems of the Holy Land; every day I think with anxiety of all those who are dying of cold and hunger; every day there reaches me the desperate cry of those who, in so many parts of the world, call for a fairer distribution of resources and for gainful employment for all.

Let no one lose hope in the power of God's love! May Christ be the light and support of those who believe and work, sometimes in the face of opposition, for encounter, dialogue and cooperation between cultures and religions. May Christ guide in peace the steps of those who tirelessly devote themselves to the progress of science and technology. May these great gifts of God never be used against respect for human dignity and its promotion! May God's holy name never be used as a justification for hatred! Let it never be used as an excuse for intolerance and violence! May the gentle face of the Child of Bethlehem remind everyone that we all have one Father.

6. Christ is our peace! Brothers and Sisters, who are listening to me, open your hearts to this message of peace, open your hearts to Christ, the Son of the Virgin Mary, to the One who became "our peace"! Open them to the One who takes nothing away from us except our sin, and who gives us in return the fullness of humanity and joy. And You, the Child of Bethlehem whom we adore, bring peace to every family and town, to every nation and continent.

Come, God made man! Come to be the heart of the world renewed by love! Come where the fate of humanity is most in peril! Come and do not delay! You are "our peace" (Eph 2:14)!

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