Christian leaders from the Vatican to Bethlehem struck a sombre note on Christmas Eve speaking of war, fear and division, as cities in Europe ramped up security in the shadow of the Berlin market attack.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis urged the world's 1.2 billion Catholics to feel compassion for children, notably victims of war, migration and homelessness in his Christmas Eve mass.
Addressing a 10,000-strong crowd late Saturday in St. Peter's Square, the pontiff urged worshipers to think of the children "hiding underground to escape bombardment", in apparent reference to Syria.
In Bethlehem, some 2,500 worshipers packed the Church of the Nativity complex, built over the grotto where Christians believe Jesus was born, for midnight mass in the Israeli-occupied West Bank near Jerusalem.
Like Pope Francis, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa also used his homily to plead for compassion for refugees and for a halt to the violence wracking the Middle East.
"We fear the stranger who knocks at the door of our home and at the borders of our countries," he said at the mass, which was attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas and other dignitaries.
"Closed doors, defended borders, before personal and political choices, are a metaphor for the fear that inevitably breed the violent dynamics of the present time."
Security was tight across Israel where Christmas coincided with the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
Prepared remarks by the leader of the world's Anglicans noted 2016 had left the world "more awash with fear and division".
"The end of 2016 finds us all in a different kind of world; one less predictable and certain, which feels more awash with fear and division," Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was to say in his Christmas Day sermon on Sunday.