They both faced the somber realities of 2011, which took no break for the holidays.
Queen Elizabeth’s message centered on hope amidst crises, and the whole world has experience with both, though it’s short on the former. But her focus on family and community is important and good to hear.
“We’ve seen that it’s in hardship that we often find strength from our families; it’s in adversity that new friendships are sometimes formed; and it’s in a crisis that communities break down barriers and bind together to help one another,” she said.
“Families, friends and communities often find a source of courage rising up from within.
“Indeed, sadly, it seems that it is tragedy that often draws out the most and the best from the human spirit.”
The Queen, who is a great-grandmother, also talked about the Commonwealth’s “family”, with its “shared beliefs” and “mutual values”.
“The importance of family has, of course, come home to Prince Philip and me personally this year with the marriages of two of our grandchildren, each in their own way a celebration of the God-given love that binds a family together,” she said.
She spoke of the importance of forgiveness and said the world was “going through difficult times”.
“Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas,” she said.
“Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people’.”
The monarch also said: “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed.”
And blind hatred that leads to violence, evident even on Christmas Day, as Pope Benedict addressed the crowd at St. Peter’s and the world listening in.
Pope Benedict XVI issued pleas for peace to reign across the world during his traditional Christmas address Sunday, a call marred by Muslim extremists who bombed a Catholic church in Nigeria, striking after worshippers celebrated Mass.
The assault on the Catholic church left 35 dead in Madalla, near the Nigerian capital. A failed bombing also occurred near a church in the city of Jos, followed by a shooting that killed a police officer. The blast came a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombs in Jos claimed by Islamist militants killed 32.
Benedict didn’t refer explicitly to the Nigerian bombings in his “Urbi et Orbi” speech, Latin for “to the city and to the world” in which he raises alarm about world hotspots. But in a statement, the Vatican called the attacks a sign of “cruelty and absurd, blind hatred” that shows no respect for human life.
It’s been a year for radical acts and measures. Queen Elizabeth and Pope Benedict emphasized what most other major public figures miss: pride, reconciliation and forgiveness.