Pope calls for peace
Pope John Paul II has called for peaceful co-existence among nations and an end to violence and conflicts.
Celebrating traditional Christmas midnight mass in a packed St Peter's Basilica in Rome, the pontiff said; "Too much blood is still being shed on the Earth! Too much violence and too many conflicts."
Extra security measures are in place all around the Vatican as a result of intelligence warnings that St Peter's could be the object of a terror attack.
After lighting a candle of peace in the window of his apartment overlooking St Peter's Square, the frail 83-year-old pope braved freezing night temperatures to preside over the midnight mass.
The pope, who was strongly opposed to the US-led war in Iraq, made an eloquent call for peace, particularly in the Holy Land where Jesus Christ was born.
"Too much violence and too many conflicts trouble the peaceful coexistence of nations!" he said.
Roads leading to St Peter's are banned to all motor traffic at night.
The pope's public appearances have been cut back slightly this Christmas and New Year.
The pontiff suffers from Parkinson's Disease and severe arthritis.