VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope John Paul II prayed at the Christmas Eve mass on Saint Peter's Square for peace in the Middle East, telling Christian communities there the church shares their anxiety over the region's destiny.
"I think with concern of the holy places, and especially of the town of Bethlehem where sadly, because of the troubled political situation, the evocative rites of Christmas cannot be celebrated with their usual solemnity," the pontiff said at the midnight mass.
"Tonight I would like the Christian communities in those places to feel that the whole church is very close to them," he added. "We share your anxiety for the destiny of the entire region of the Middle East."
At the same time, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem - where Christ is believed to have been born 2000 years ago - another mass was celebrated by the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, who is of Palestinian origin.
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat attended the service in Saint …