In the midst of worldwide publicity about the physical assault on him, Pope Benedict XVI focused his Christmas message on human hope, social justice and divine love arising from the narrative of Jesus' birth.
Referring to the philosophical introduction to the Gospel of John, which speaks of Christ as "a light to enlighten every person", the pontiff declared: "God loves to light little lights, so as then to illuminate vast spaces. Truth, and Love, which are its content, are kindled wherever the light is welcomed; they then radiate in concentric circles, as if by contact, in the hearts and minds of all those who, by opening themselves freely to its splendour, themselves become sources of light."
He then went on to speak of the particular responsibility and calling of the church - which has been racked by the sexual abuse scandals in Ireland and other traumas, though the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics did not refer to these directly in his traditional address from St Peter's, Rome.
"In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder," he said, "the Church shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to an attitude of acceptance and welcome. In a word, the Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference."
He added: "The Church is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The 'us' of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the “little flock” of Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbour.
"The 'us' of the Church is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace. On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them."
A disturbed woman had jumped the barriers in St Peter's Basilica and knocked down Pope Benedict just before Christmas Eve Mass, but he got up unhurt and went on to celebrate the Mass.
There have subsequently been further security checks, but the pontiff's schedule for the season has continued.