Pope Benedict has called for the release of all hostages around the world, including two Italian nuns kidnapped weeks ago in northern Kenya.
The pontiff Friday spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's square on the feast of Saint Stephen, the day after Christmas. He appealed for prayers for the victims of abductions in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
The pope said he hoped that God would "touch the hearts" of the nuns' abductors so that they may be released and continue their work with the poor.
Suspected Somali gunmen kidnapped the two nuns November 10 during a raid on the Kenyan border town of El Wak and took them back to Somalia.
Kenyan authorities blame the al-Shabab militant group for the attack and have demanded their release.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.