Leaders around the globe sent holiday greetings Wednesday, though some differed markedly in their tone and message.
From News Services

> President George W. Bush. Bush phoned U.S. troops stationed around the world from Camp David, wishing them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and thanking them for their service, White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

Perino said the president asked each one to pass holiday wishes from him and Laura Bush to other troops serving with them. He thanked the members for their “continued sacrifices that they are making in serving our country overseas, and away from family.”

> President-elect Barack Obama. Obama asked the country to look to George Washington’s improbable crossing on the Delaware River on Christmas Day as inspiration to get through current tough times.

Obama said in a holiday message that Washington and his army “faced impossible odds” as they fought against the British on Dec. 25, 1776, the day they surprised Hessian forces and won victories that gave new momentum and hope to American Independence.

Obama used that story to say that “hope endures and that a new birth of peace is always possible” —- even as many Americans are serving overseas and others have lost their jobs while the economy sinks deeper into the doldrums.

Referring to Washington’s journey, he said “we have crossed many rivers as a people,” and he said Americans can point their country in a new direction.

“Now, we must all do our part to serve one another; to seek new ideas and new innovation; and to start a new chapter for our great country,” he said.

> Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad recorded a Christmas Day message for broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4 television, occupying a slot used to provide an often controversial counterpoint to Queen Elizabeth II’s traditional annual message.

He offered seasonal greetings to Christians and said he believes that if Jesus were alive, he would “stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers,” an apparent reference to the U.S. and its allies.

“If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over,” Ahmadinejad said.

The Israeli ambassador to London condemned Ahmadinejad’s speech as a “bogus message of good will” and said the broadcast was a disgrace.

> Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The leader of the world’s Anglicans says the message of Christmas is that the world should not look for a hero, but that people should get to work to improve their corner of the world.

“The Gospel tells us something hard to hear, that there is not going to be a single charismatic leader or a dedicated political campaign or a war to end all wars that will bring the golden age; it tells us that history will end when God decides, not when we think we have sorted all our problems out; that we cannot turn the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of God and his anointed; that we cannot reverse what has happened and restore a golden age,” Williams said.

That, he said, should lead to thought about responding to Jesus’ coming.

“So often the answer to this lies in the small and local gestures, the unique difference made in some particular corner of the world, the way in which we witness to the fact that history not only goes on but is also capable of being shifted toward compassion and hope.”

> Pope Benedict XVI. The pontiff celebrated Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica after the unveiling of the larger-than-life Nativity scene next to the Vatican’s largest-ever Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square. At nightfall, Benedict lit a candle in his studio window in a sign of peace and blessed the crowd.

The Vatican’s No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the gesture was an invitation to all to pray for peace and think of those who are less fortunate.

“I say to all those who are listening, light the candle of peace inside yourself, light the candle of welcoming and understanding that will help you listen and share the cry of the poor and of those who suffer,” Bertone said.

> Chaldean Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly. As Baghdad’s small and beleaguered Christian community attended Christmas Mass before dusk Wednesday instead of at the traditional midnight —- a reflection of continued security concerns in the Iraqi capital —- the cardinal called on all Iraqis “to live together in a quiet, loving, brotherly and equal life” and “not to marginalize the Christians.”