In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as Soviet president the day before Russia's Supreme Soviet (the name for the USSR's legislative bodies) voted to end the Soviet Union.
In 1995, actor-singer Dean Martin died at the age of 78.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI revealed a new-style nativity scene in the Vatican's St. Peter's Square. It depicted Jesus' birth in Joseph's house, with no mention of a manger or journey to Bethlehem. The Christmas scene was apparently based on St. Matthew's version of the nativity.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to fighting in war-torn Syria. "I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced," the pope said in his Christmas message. "May peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenseless and reaps innocent victims."
In 2013, at the Vatican, Pope Francis, in his first Christmas message as leader of the Roman Catholic Church, spoke out against wars that "shatter and hurt so many lives" and called on the opposing sides in the Syrian conflict to "guarantee access to humanitarian aid." In Baghdad, car bombs, including one near a Catholic church and another a half-mile away, at a place where Christians gather, killed 37 people and wounded dozens.
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