Pope Benedict has used his annual Christmas message to the world, calling for peace in global hot spots, including Syria.
The pontiff prayed Tuesday that "peace would spring up for the people of Syria," a country where tens of thousands have died in anti-government unrest.
As he stood on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and addressed thousands of pilgrims below, he also called for peace in Mali, where al-Qaida linked militants occupy part of the country, and Nigeria, where Islamist extremists have waged a bloody campaign.
The pontiff also called on Israel and the Palestinians to find the "courage" to negotiate a settlement and asked China's new government to respect religion.
Meanwhile, thousands of tourists from all over the world gathered in the West Bank town of Bethlehem to celebrate the holiday at the place where Christians believe Jesus was born.
Last month the United Nations General Assembly voted to recognized the Palestinian Authority as a non-member state.
In his annual pre-Christmas homily, the top Roman Catholic bishop in the area, Fouad Twal, celebrated that achievement for the Palestinians and urged them to work with the Israelis to end the region's seemingly endless conflict.
Despite cold weather, the festivities continued late into the evening, with some tourists calling it a moving experience.
Pope Benedict delivers his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the City and to the World) speech from the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, December 25, 2012.
Vatican Swiss guards march in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, December 25, 2012.
Burmese Christians gather outside the St. Anthony's Catholic Church Rangoon, Burma, December 25, 2012.
Civilians in Santa Claus hats and service members with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force wait to be served Christmas dinner at the U.S.-led coalition base in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 25, 2012.
Members of the ice swimming club Berlin Seals attend the annual Christmas swimming at the partial frozen Oranke Lake in Berlin, Germany, December 25, 2012.
Pakistani women pray during an outdoor Mass on Christmas Day, in a Christian neighborhood in Islamabad, Pakistan, December 25, 2012.
British travelers, left to right, Liam Skalley, John Arthurs, Ben Saunders, Sam Hope and Liam Fillingham kick up their heels as they celebrate Christmas Day at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, December 25, 2012.
Kosovo Catholics attend a Christmas mass at St. Anthony church in Pristina, December 25, 2012.
Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall arrive for the British royal family's traditional Christmas Day church service in Sandringham, England, December 25, 2012.
Indonesians pray during a Christmas eve service at a church in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, December 24, 2012.
Christian worshippers and tourists celebrate at the Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 24, 2012.
Musicians play brass instruments for the 35th Annual Dallas Merry Tubachristmas Concert at Thanks-Giving Square in downtown Dallas, Texas, December 24, 2012.