Pope Benedict XVI urged a solution to conflicts across the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa, in a Christmas Day address Monday that included an appeal for the poor, the exploited and all those who suffer.

"With deep apprehension I think, on this festive day, of the Middle East, marked by so many grave crises and conflicts, and I express my hope that the way will be opened to a just and lasting peace," Benedict said in his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" speech — Latin for "to the city and to the world."

The pope singled out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his speech.

"I place in the hands of the divine Child of Bethlehem the indications of a resumption of dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which we have witnessed in recent days, and the hope of further encouraging developments," the pontiff added, speaking from a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

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The pope also mentioned violence in Lebanon, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Darfur and the whole of Africa, as Ethiopian fighter jets bombed airports in Somalia and more people died in bombings in Iraq.

Under his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, the Christmas Day message became an occasion to review progress and setbacks for humanity.

Hours earlier, the pope celebrated Midnight Mass inside St. Peter's.

Wearing shimmering gold vestments and a golden miter, Benedict told the crowd that despite its modern-day successes, the world remains in desperate need of a savior.

"This humanity of the 21st century appears as sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs," the pope added. "Yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and unbridled consumerism."

"Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination," Benedict said.

It is for this reason, the pope said, that Jesus Christ is reborn.

"For he knows that even today we need him," Benedict said. "Despite humanity's many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death."

At the end of his speech, the pope delighted the tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists who packed the sunlit square by delivering Christmas greetings in more than 60 languages.

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