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Pope John Paul II made his most extensive comment yet about AIDS in his annual holiday message, saying his Christmas wish is that "science and love" will find a cure for the deadly disease.

The white-robed pontiff, speaking from the balcony over the main entrance to St. Peter's Basilica, appealed for help for AIDS sufferers and for help for survivors of the devastating earthquake in Soviet Armenia."Let forces be joined and efforts be increased to help those in need, with whom Christ himself wished to identify himself," said the leader of the world's 850 million Roman Catholics.

The pope, wearing a glittering gold miter and carrying a staff topped by a cross, said Sunday that the beauty of Christmas lies in the fact God sent his son as a poor person.

"The poor under every label, old and new, have a place in the mystery of Christmas: those suffering and dying of hunger, the rejected, the disinherited, refugees, the victims of hatred, of wars, of natural disasters," he said in Italian.

John Paul II devoted several minutes of his address to those suffering from illnesses, including acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

"I think of them all, and to all of them I say: do not lose hope," the Polish-born pope said. "These words are addressed above all to the victims of AIDS, called to face the challenge not only of the sickness but also the mistrust of a fearful society that instinctively turns away from them.

"I invite everyone to take up the tragic burden of these brethren of ours, and, as I assure them of my deep affection, I exhort scientists and researchers to increase their efforts to find an effective treatment for this mysterious illness," he said.

"May the concerted efforts of science and love soon find the hoped-for remedy: this is the hope that I lay at the crib of the newborn savior."

About 70,000 people who packed St. Peter's Square under sunny skies listened quietly to the traditional message. Different groups burst into applause when the pope, in his conclusion, offered Christmas greetings in 44 languages.

The address was broadcast directly to 15 countries, including the Soviet Union for the first time. It was shown on television later or in partial form in 35 other nations.