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Pope lunches with poor, denounces church attacks

Lasagna, veal and cake were on the menu Sunday as Pope Benedict XVI invited about 250 poor people to join him for a post-Christmas lunch and denounced as "absurd" new attacks on the faithful around the globe.

Also joining the pope and his guests were 250 nuns, seminarians and priests of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity order, which runs soup kitchens around Rome.

Last year, Benedict traveled to a Rome soup kitchen to join the poor for lunch after Christmas. This year he wanted to invite them to his home and to pay homage to Mother Teresa, whose birth centenary is being celebrated this year.

During the lunch, held inside the Vatican's main audience hall, Benedict told his guests about the virtues of Mother Teresa, who dedicated her life to serving the sick and poor.

"To those who ask why Mother Teresa was famous, the answer is easy: she lived her life in a humble and hidden way, for the love of God and in love with God," Benedict said.

The feast included lasagna with homemade Bolognese sauce, veal chunks with roasted potatoes, traditional yellow Christmas cake with chocolate bits and Chantilly cream, and coffee.

Before the meal, Benedict delivered his traditional Sunday blessing from his studio window, denouncing Christmas Day attacks on the faithful in the Philippines and Nigeria and a suicide bombing in Pakistan that killed 45 people at an aid center.

"Once again, the earth is stained by blood," he lamented.

A bomb exploded during Christmas Mass at a police camp chapel in the southern Philippines, wounding a priest and 10 churchgoers. Also Saturday, six people died in attacks by Muslim sect members on two churches in northern Nigeria.

"I express my heartfelt condolences to the victims of this absurd violence and once again repeat my appeal to abandon ways of hatred and find peaceful solutions to conflicts" so that people can live in peace and security, he said.

Benedict noted that the Sunday after Christmas traditionally celebrates the family, taking the birth of Jesus as its cue. Underlining his rejection of gay marriage and abortion, the pope stressed that every child deserves a mother and a father who will love them and welcome them as a gift.

"This is what gives children security and, as they grow, lets them discover the sense of life," he said.