VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict ushered in the New Year on Thursday by appealing for solidarity worldwide to fight global poverty made worse by the financial crisis.
The Pontiff, delivering a traditional New Year prayer for peace, said the economic downturn needed more than quick fixes and should be regarded as an opportunity to narrow the gap between the haves and the have nots.
"This crisis needs to be looked at in depth, as a grave symptom that requires intervention on its causes," the Pope told crowds gathered in a rainy St. Peter's Square.
"It is not enough -- as Jesus would say -- to put a few new patches on an old garment," the Pope said, adding that the world's poor and their needs must become a priority.
In recent months, the German-born Benedict has sharply criticized the global financial system, branding it as self-centred, short-sighted and lacking in concern for the destitute.
Speaking earlier on Thursday at St. Peter's Basilica, the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics called for a new virtuous cycle of solidarity and sobriety, saying poverty threatened peace the world over.
"The current global economic crisis must also be viewed as a test: are we ready to look at it, in all its complexity, as a challenge for the future and not just as an emergency that needs short-lived responses?" the Pope said.
"Are we prepared for a deep revision of the dominant development model to correct it in a concerted and far-sighted fashion?
"The state of the planet's environment and above all the cultural and moral crisis ... are demanding this, even more than the immediate financial problems," he added.
During mass at the Basilica, Benedict reiterated his appeal for an end to the conflict in the Gaza Strip, saying that violence was also a form of poverty and that a large majority of Israelis and Palestinians wanted peace.
(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Keith Weir)