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Christmas Celebrations Around the World - 2004-12-25


Hundreds of millions of Christians today (Saturday) are celebrating Christmas, despite conflict, persecution and fear of terrorist attack.

In his traditional Christmas Day message ("Urbi et Orbi"--"to the city and to the world"), Pope John Paul expressed concern at the spread of violence. The Roman Catholic pontiff said he follows the situation in Iraq with "great apprehension." He also mentioned conflicts in Africa. The Pope expressed both "anxious concern" and "invincible confidence" at the situation in the Holy Land.

In Bethlehem, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and other dignitaries attended a midnight Mass.

President Bush made Christmas Eve telephone calls to U.S. troops at home and overseas, thanking them for their service.

Thousands of Indonesian worshippers thronged heavily guarded churches, despite the threat of terrorist attacks from local Islamic militants.

Chinese Christians crowded government-approved churches, while millions of others attended underground services in homes, fearing government persecution.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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