Without citing the tumultuous politics and clashes in the region, he urged the North African region to build societies ‘‘founded on justice and respect for the dignity of every person.’’
Benedict prayed for the return of peace in Mali and harmony in Nigeria, where, he recalled ‘‘savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians.’’
The Vatican for decades has been worried about the well-being of its flock in China, who are loyal to the pope in defiance of the communist’s government support of an officially sponsored church, and relations between Beijing and the Holy See are often tense.
Speaking about China’s newly installed regime leaders, Benedict expressed hope that ‘‘they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each other, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of that noble people and of the whole world.’’
Acknowledging Latin America’s predominant Christian population, he urged government leaders to carry out commitments to development and to fighting organized crime.
In Britain, the royal family was attending Christmas Day church services at St. Mary Magdelene Church on Queen Elizabeth II’s sprawling Sandringham estate, though there were a few notable absences. Prince William is spending the holiday with his pregnant wife Kate and his in-laws in the southern England village of Bucklebury, while Prince Harry is serving with British troops in Afghanistan.
Later Tuesday, the queen delivered her traditional, prerecorded Christmas message, which for the first time was broadcast in 3D.
At Canterbury cathedral, Anglican leader Rowan Williams delivered his final Christmas day sermon as archbishop of Canterbury. He acknowledged how the church’s General Synod’s vote against allowing women to become bishops had cost credibility and said the faithful felt a ‘‘real sense of loss’’ over the decision.
In the U.S., the Rev. Jesse Jackson brought his message of anti-violence and gun control to a Chicago jail, using his traditional Christmas Day sermon at the facility to challenge inmates to help get guns off the streets.
‘‘We've all been grieving about the violence in Newtown, Connecticut, the last few days,’’ he told reporters after addressing inmates, referring to the Dec. 14 school shooting that killed 26 children and adults. ‘‘Most of those here today ... have either shot somebody or been shot. We’re recruiting them to help us stop the flow of guns.’’
In Newtown, well-wishers from around the U.S. showed up on Christmas morning to hang ornaments on a series of memorial Christmas trees while police officers from around Connecticut took extra shifts to direct traffic and patrol the town to give local police a day off. In a 24-hour vigil, volunteers watched over 26 candles that had been lit at midnight in honor of those slain at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
At a town hall memorial, Faith Leonard waved to people driving by and handed out Christmas cookies, children’s gifts and hugs to anyone who needed it.
‘‘I guess my thought was if I could be here helping out maybe one person would be able to spend more time with their family or grieve in the way they needed to,’’ said Leonard, who drove to Newtown from Gilbert, Arizona, to volunteer on Christmas morning.
At St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which eight of the child victims of the massacre attended, the Rev. Robert Weiss told parishioners that ‘‘today is the day we begin everything all over again.’’
‘‘We know Christmas in a way we never ever thought we would know it,’’ he said. ‘‘We need a little Christmas and we've been given it.’’
In a New York City neighborhood ravaged by Superstorm Sandy in late October, some holiday traditions had to go by the wayside, but Christmas was celebrated with a special sense of gratitude.
Midmorning and noon Masses were packed Tuesday at St. Francis De Sales Church in the Rockaways; the church only recently got heat restored after Sandy flooded its basement. The bells and organ still don’t work, so St. Francis De Sales is making do with a keyboard for now.
‘‘But nobody is feeling morose or down. They’re just rebuilding their lives, keeping the faith and going forward,’’ choir member Ed Quinn said. ‘‘It’s not the best of circumstances, that’s for sure. But we’re making the best of it.’’
Dalia Nammari in Bethlehem, Cassandra Vinograd in London, Sophia Tareen in Chicago, Julie Walker in New York, and Brock Vergakis and Stephen Singer in Newtown, Connecticut, contributed to this report.