LONDON — Pope Benedict XVI is calling for an end to the "endless slaughter" of civilians in Syria. In his annual state of the world address to global diplomats, the pontiff also condemned "terrorist attacks" against Christians in Nigeria and violence in Mali.
In his annual address, Pope Benedict said his thoughts are “first and foremost” with Syria, where a civil war has raged for 21 months.
He says he is appealing for a cease-fire and for the start of constructive dialogue to bring the conflict to an end.
Diplomats from nearly 180 countries and organizations from around the world listened to the Pope’s address in the Vatican. The pontiff pressed diplomats to alert their governments to the need for aid to cope with Syria’s humanitarian situation.
The United Nations estimates more than 60,000 people have been killed since the conflict began.
Pope Benedict also said he hoped for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, and for peace and religious reconciliation in Iraq and Lebanon.
Turning to sub-Saharan Africa, Pope Benedict highlighted the plight of Christians in Nigeria.
He says he was deeply saddened to learn that even in the days when Christians were celebrating Christmas, some were put to death.
On Christmas Eve, gunmen attacked a church in northeastern Yobe state, killing six people. Yobe is next to Borno state, the home of Islamic radical sect Boko Haram, which has attacked churches at Christmas in recent years.
The pope also called for the international community to address the situation in Mali, where Islamist militants have seized control in the north of the country.
Rights groups say the militants have committed a range of abuses, including public executions and amputations, aimed at imposing a strict form of Islamic law.
The pontiff also said he hoped peace talks in the Central African Republic, where rebels have seized control of one-third of the country, will spare civilians from "reliving the throes of another civil war."