(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace in the Middle East in his traditional Christmas message, calling for an end to the bloodshed in Syria, where thousands have reportedly been killed in an anti-government uprising. The pope also urged Israeli and Palestinian officials to come together and resume talks for peace.
“May the Prince of Peace grant peace and stability to that Land where he chose to come into the world, and encourage the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians,” the leader of the Catholic Church said in his “Urbi et Orbi” Christmas Day message. “May he bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed. May he foster full reconciliation and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. May he grant renewed vigour to all elements of society in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East as they strive to advance the common good.”
Thousands of Roman Catholics gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear the pope’s message, which was delivered in dozens of languages. The 84-year-old religious leader also prayed for an end to hardships suffered by refugees around the world.
“May the Lord grant comfort to the peoples of South-East Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines, who are still enduring grave hardships as a result of the recent floods,” the pope said from his balcony above Saint Peter’s Square.
The pope earlier presided over Christmas Eve Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, where he decried the commercialization of Christmas.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Sugam Pokharel and AJ Willingham, CNN
Alanna Petroff, CNN