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Pope says Mass for tsunami's victims

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II celebrated a special Mass early yesterday in his private chapel for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunamis. Later, he publicly praised the outpouring of aid for the stricken populations as a sign of hope for 2005.

''Once more I express my nearness to the populations struck by the tragic cataclysm of these past days," John Paul said in a noontime New Year's Day greeting from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square.

''In assuring my prayer for the victims of the catastrophe and for their families, I note favorably the solidarity efforts which are developing in every part of the world," the pontiff said, sitting in a chair in front of the window, as thousands of pilgrims, tourists, and Romans listened below.

The Vatican released no details of the private Mass, which began at midnight in the pope's chapel in his apartment. But on Friday the Holy See's press office had said that John Paul would ''remember the families of the victims and how much they are suffering in these days because of the consequences of the disaster, as well as those who are working to relieve the immense suffering of the stricken populations."

The Roman Catholic Church dedicates the first day of each year to the theme of global peace.

''World Peace Day constitutes an invitation to Christians and to all men of good will to renew their determined commitment to build peace," John Paul said in his homily in St. Peter's Basilica.

''To conquer evil with the arms of love becomes the way in which each one can contribute to the peace of everybody," he said.

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