Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday urged people everywhere to prepare for Christmas by overcoming prejudices as pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter's Square ahead of Christmas Eve celebrations.

"Jesus came for each one of us and made us brothers," Benedict said during his traditional blessing from his window overlooking the square.

In turn, he added, people should strive to "overcome preconceived ideas and prejudices, tear down barriers and eliminate contrasts that divide — or worse — set individuals and peoples against each other, so as to build together a world of justice and peace."

"With such sentiments, dear brothers and sisters, let us live through the last few hours that separate us from Christmas, by preparing spiritually to welcome baby Jesus," the pontiff added.

Benedict was to celebrate Midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

On Christmas Day at noon, Benedict was scheduled to deliver the "Urbi et Orbi" message — Latin for "to the city and to world" — to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square and offer holiday greetings.

His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, used to use the "Urbi et Orbi" message to review conditions around the world, often lamenting conflicts, poverty and the excesses of consumerism.

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