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Pope Issues New Year’s Call for Mideast Peace

VATICAN – NEW YORK – SYDNEY (dpa) – Pope John Paul II spreads incense during mass at St. Peter’s Basilica Pope John Paul II has marked the arrival of the new year with a call for peace in the Middle East.

In his New Year’s Day address at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the pope said that “no one can kill in the name of God,” and that Christians, Muslims and Jews must condemn violence and work together to restore peace in the Holy Land.

The pope said justice and forgiveness are both essential for the promotion of peace. He added that only forgiveness can quench the thirst for revenge.

Pope John Paul plans to host a summit of religious leaders on January 24 to pray for peace in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

At his New Year’s Eve mass Monday night, the 81-year-old pontiff asked God to give him the strength to continue as the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

On a different topic, Pope John Paul welcomed the arrival of Europe’s new currency, the euro, as a way to achieve what he called the full development of Europe.

Meanwhile, New York City welcomed the new year by swearing in a new mayor, billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg.

Outgoing Mayor Rudolph Giuliani administered the oath of office to Mr. Bloomberg in a brief ceremony amid New Year’s Day celebrations in Times Square, where more than 500,000 people rang in 2002.

This year’s ceremony was dedicated to the victims of the September 11 terror attacks that destroyed the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center.

Security was tightened in the city for the event. Among the added security measures were helicopters circling above the city, sharpshooters at key locations throughout the city and devices capable of detecting nuclear radiation.

Patriotic events to mark the new year took place in many other U.S. cities. Many nations around the world also greeted 2002, looking to the future after a year that was marred by violence and economic gloom.

Russian and U.S. astronauts aboard the International Space Station were among the first to greet 2002 as they orbited westward above Earth. For the space station crew – Russian Yuri Onufrienko and Americans Carl Walz and Daniel Bursch – the new year began as they crossed the International Dateline over the Pacific Ocean hours before the rest of the world celebrated.

And in Australia’s largest metropolitan area, raging bushfires did not halt the traditional massive new year’s fireworks display. An estimated one million revelers ignored a shroud of smoke over historic Sydney harbor to watch the fireworks display.

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