VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday he hoped the global financial crisis might help people to rediscover the spiritual message of Christmas.
"Perhaps the world crisis that is affecting so many families and all of humanity could be the stimulus for rediscovering the warmth, simplicity, amity and solidarity which are the very values of Christmas," the pontiff said at his weekly general audience.
"Stripped of its materialistic and consumer trappings, Christmas offers a chance to welcome as a personal gift the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of Christ's birth," he added.
Benedict, describing Christmas as a "universal holiday," said that "even a non-believer can perceive (in it) something special, transcendent and intimate that speaks to the heart."
Christmas, celebrated by Christians on December 25 to honour the birth of Jesus Christ, is traditionally an occasion to exchange gifts.