A weary Pope John Paul II tempered the Catholic Church's joy at Christmas on Sunday with a mournful litany of conflicts that have bloodied much of the world.

John Paul opened his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" message - Latin for "to the city (of Rome) and the world" - with a tribute to families as the Catholic Church nears the end of its Year of the Family.Then, as has been his custom throughout his 16-year-long papacy, he turned the end of his message from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica into a lament for places without peace.

"As I look at families in the light of Christmas, I cannot but turn my thoughts to the greater human family, unfortunately torn by persistent forms of selfishness and violence," the pope said.

"What are we to say of the Sudan with its `forgotten' war and of Algeria, where murderous violence holds the whole people hostage? And the very land where Jesus was born, does it not continue to be a theater of conflicts and a place of division?" the pope asked.

The pope's speech was prepared in advance, but violent events of the day seemed to make his words ring louder.

Near the main entrance to Jerusalem, an Islamic militant blew himself up, wounding 12 people.

In Algiers, passengers on a French jetliner were hostages of Muslim militants, who killed at least three people.

The pope also mentioned the fighting in the former Yugoslavia, "tearing apart the Balkans."