ROME -- In a first for a pope, Benedict XVI has written an article for a secular newspaper, advising in the Financial Times that Christmas is a time for serious thought.

The op-ed published Thursday says Christmas is a "time of great joy" and also "an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience."

Benedict has been a prolific writer throughout his career as a bishop, senior Vatican official and pope. The Vatican says he has previously written for an Italian religious affairs magazine and the weekly newspaper of his former diocese in Munich.

It says in a statement the pope "willingly accepted" the newspaper's unusual request for his contribution.