Pope Benedict called for an end to the violence in Syria and urged Christians to "see through the superficial glitter" as he led the celebration of Christmas in his annual Urbi et Orbi address. "May the Lord bring an end to the violence in Syria, where much blood has already been shed," the pontiff said, calling for "renewed vigor" in the Arab Spring "as they strive to advance the common good." The pope spoke two hours earlier than the normal midnight address, notes the BBC, so as to avoid a late night. Elsewhere on this Christmas day:
- Pilgrims in Bethlehem braved driving wind and rain to pack St Catherine's Church in Manger Square in a cheery celebration at the birthplace of Jesus, notes the AP. "This is the place, this is where it all started," said one American pilgrim. "It doesn't get any more special than that."
- The Vatican denounced today's bombings of Nigerian churches as "cruelty and absurd, blind hatred," reports the AP.
- On a cheerier note, NORAD reports that it fielded a record 102,000 queries from Santa trackers, up from the previous mark of 80,000. "The phones are ringing like crazy," one official tells the AP.
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