Find room for God in fast-paced world: Pope
Pope Benedict XVI has called for peace in the world during his customary Christmas blessing and message, delivered from the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica.
At the Vatican, the pontiff used his "Urbi et Orbi" - To the City and the World - message to condemn the violence in Syria.
"I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced... and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution," he said.
He also urged Israelis and Palestinians to find the courage to negotiate and offered his blessing for the growing church in China.
In front of thousands of pilgrims the 85-year-old pope also called on Catholics to "find time and room for God in their fast-paced lives".
"May the birth of the prince of peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the saviour has been born for us," he said.
Earlier, Pope Benedict, marking the eighth Christmas season of his pontificate, celebrated a solemn midnight mass.
We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed.
We are so full of ourselves that there is no room left for God.
At the mass for 10,000 people at the basilica and broadcast to millions on television, the pope wove his homily around the theme of God's place in today's modern world.
"Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself?" he said.
"We begin to do so when we have no time for him.
"The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have.
"And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full."
The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics said societies had reached the point where many people's thinking processes did not leave any room for the existence of God.
"Even if he seems to knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away," he said.
"If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the God hypothesis becomes superfluous.
"There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him.
"We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed.
"We are so full of ourselves that there is no room left for God."
Bells inside and outside the basilica chimed when the pope said "Glory to God in the Highest", the words the gospels say the angels sang at the moment of Jesus's birth.
The pope also prayed that "Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side-by-side in God's peace".
The Vatican is concerned about the exodus from the Middle East of Christians, many of whom leave because they fear for their safety.
Christians now comprise 5 per cent of the population of the region, down from 20 per cent a century ago.
According to some estimates, the current population of 12 million Christians in the Middle East could halve by 2020 if security and birth rates continue to decline.