Pope, Queen deliver Christmas messages

Pope Benedict and Queen Elizabeth have delivered their annual Christmas messages.

Pope Benedict XVI has called for peace in the world during his customary Christmas blessing and message, delivered from the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica.

Earlier, the Queen also gave her Christmas Day address - the first one to be broadcast in 3D.

At the Vatican, the pontiff used his "Urbi et Orbi" - To the City and the World - message to condemn the violence in Syria.

"I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced ... and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution," he said.

He also urged Israelis and Palestinians to find the courage to negotiate and offered his blessing for the growing church in China.

In front of thousands of pilgrims the 85-year-old pope also called on Catholics to "find time and room for God in their fast-paced lives".

"May the birth of the prince of peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the saviour has been born for us," he said.

Queen's speech

Queen Elizabeth has used her Christmas message to pay tribute to those whose work takes takes them away from family and friends during the Christmas period.

In her annual address - for the first time broadcast in 3D - the Queen spoke of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year, calling it a humbling experience.

"This past year has been one of great celebration for many," she said.

"The enthusiasm which greeted the Diamond Jubilee was of course especially memorable for me and my family.

"It was humbling that so many chose to mark the anniversary of a duty which duty which passed to me 60 years ago."

She also paid tribute to the volunteers and athletes who made the London Olympics and Paralympics possible.

"Those public-spirited people came forward in the great tradition of all those who devote themselves to keeping others safe, supported and comforted," she said.

"As London hosted a splendour summer of sport, all those who saw the achievement and courage at the Olympic and Paralympic Games were further inspired by the skill, dedication, training and teamwork of our athletes.

"In pursuing their own sporting goals they gave the rest of us the opportunity to share something of the excitement and drama."

The Queen praised members of the armed forces, emergency services and hospital workers for their sense of duty.

"Those public-spirited people came forward in the great tradition of all those who devote themselves to keeping others safe, supported and comforted," she said.

"For many, Christmas is also a time for coming together. But for others, service will come first.

"Those serving in our armed forces, in our emergency services, and in our hospitals, whose sense of duty takes them away from family and friends, will be missing those they love."

The monarch has also encouraged people to reach out to those who are celebrating Christmas alone, or without loved ones.

"And those who have lost loved ones may find this day especially full of memories," she said.

"That's why it's important at this time of year to reach out beyond our familiar relationships, to think of those who are on their own."

Most of the royal family are celebrating Christmas at Sandringham with the Queen but the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are breaking tradition and spending it with the Duchess's parents.