Pope Benedict XVI marked Christmas Eve with Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and a pressing question: Will people find room in their hectic, technology-driven lives for children, the poor and God? The pontiff also prayed that Israelis and Palestinians live in peace and freedom, and asked the faithful to pray for Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. The ceremony began at 10pm local time—two hours earlier than tradition so that the 85-year-old pontiff might rest before his Christmas Day speech tomorrow at midday—with the blare of trumpets, meant to symbolize Christian joy over the news of Christ's birth in Bethlehem. The basilica's main bell tolled outside, and the voices of the Vatican's boys' choir wafted across the packed venue.
"The great moral question of our attitude toward the homeless, toward refugees and migrants takes on a deeper dimension: Do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof?" the pope said. "The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent." Benedict earlier in the evening lighted a Christmas peace candle in the window of his private residence, drawing a cheer from the faithful gathered below.