Pope Paul said yesterday that his Christmas wish was for the successful outcome of the Israeli-Egyptian talks.
Speaking from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the 80-year-old Pontiff said in his traditional Christmas message that the talks between Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin and Egypt's President Anwar Sadat brought more concrete hope for peace in the Middle East.
The pontiff said, however, that a lasting world peace is getting more difficult to achieve because of "the fear of terrible weapons . . . stirred up by an inhuman science."
The people wished the crowd of 20,000 listening to him "a blessed Christmas in the joy and peace of Christ." He repeated his greeting in 12 languages including Swahili, Chinese, Greek and Polish.
Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, Christian pilgrims crowded the Church of the Nativity on Christmas Day. They moved reverently in the old Crusader church and through the tiny rock-walled grotto beneath it where tradition says Christ was born.
Celebrating pilgrims had been starlted the night before by a minor explosion in a alcove a few yards from Manager Square. No one was hurt and little damage was caused by the explosion.
Christmas rites concluded with morning high Mass in St. Cahherine's Basilica celebrated by the Roman Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem, Msgr. Giacomo Giuseppi Beltritti.
A copacity crowd of about 1,400, including Israeli military government authorities and Catholic diplomats, attended the Mass as the overflow of pilgrims watched on a huge television screen outside.
Arab merchants selling souvenirs of olive wood and mother-of-pearl were pleased with the turnout of free-spending tourists, their ranks swelled by hopes of a Middle East peace.
In Warsaw, Roman Catholic Primate Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski said in a Christmas Day sermon that some of Poland's more enlightened leaders were beginning to grasp ther meaning of religion."
This, he said, was the significance of Polish Communist leader Edward Gierek's meeting with Pope Paul in the Vatican earlier this month.
In a half-hour sermon to about 3,000 persons, the cardinal said the 20th Century has been an age of totalitarian systems and concentration camps, but Polish Christians were better off than those in countries where churches were shut.
In Britain, the head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan, gave a Christmas message in which he praised the work of exiled Soviet author Alexander Solzhenitysyn, the Northern Ireland peace movement and Christian Institute leaders in South Africa who, he said have exposed the tyranny of racism.