VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI urged a world confronting a financial crisis, conflict, and increasing poverty not to lose hope at Christmas, but to join in "authentic solidarity" to prevent global ruin.
His message of salvation amid growing concern about the economic meltdown facing rich and poor nations alike was echoed across the continent in London, where Britain's Queen Elizabeth II called for courage in response to the rough times.
The pope, speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to tens of thousands of pilgrims, tourists and Romans in the square below, called his Christmas message known as "Urbi et Orbi" - Latin for "to the city and to the world" - a "proclamation of hope." He stressed that it was "meant for all men and women."
As the global economy spirals downward, Benedict said, "an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations."
"In each of these places, may the light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity," he said. "If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart."
Wearing a crimson mantle against a damp chill, Benedict expressed hope that dialogue and negotiation would prevail to find "just and lasting solutions" to conflicts in the Holy Land and elsewhere in the Middle East.
He decried suffering in Africa and terrorism, and called for an end to "internecine conflict" dividing ethnic and social groups. The pope specifically mentioned the plight of those in eastern Congo, in Sudan's Darfur region, in Somalia, and in Zimbabwe.
He condemned the "twisted logic of conflict and violence" in the Middle East, which he is likely to visit next year. The pope lamented, "The horizon seems once again bleak for Israelis and Palestinians."
"May the divine light of Bethlehem radiate throughout the Holy Land," he said. "May it spread throughout Lebanon, Iraq, and the whole Middle East."
Following tradition, the pope recited holiday greetings in 64 languages.
In London, from the splendor of Buckingham Palace's Music Room, Queen Elizabeth acknowledged to her subjects that the economic crisis had given rise "to feelings of insecurity" and cast a pall over holiday celebrations.
"People are touched by events which have their roots far across the world," she said. "Whether it is the global economy or violence in a distant land, the effects can be keenly felt at home."
But the queen stressed that "when life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future."