Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday called for an “end to the bloodshed” in conflict-wracked Syria in a traditional Christmas message that touched on several other of the world’s conflict zones.
“There is hope in the world … even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations,” he said, praying that “peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims.”
Speaking from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica in a message watched by millions around the world, he called “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 to the conflict.”
A capacity crowd of 40,000 pilgrims filled the vast St Peter’s Square to hear the 85-year-old pope, resplendent in red vestments, deliver the message under partly cloudy skies.
His wide-ranging “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World) message also pointed to hotspots across Africa and urged religious freedom in China, and as usual called for peace in the Middle East.
He notably lamented “savage acts of terrorism” that frequently target Christian churches in Nigeria.