Pope Benedict has marked the start of the new year with a call for protection of the family, which he said is vital for world peace.

In the homily at his first Mass of 2008, the pontiff called the family the primary means for assuring peace. And he warned that any negation of family rights threatens the foundations of peace.

The pope has frequently turned to the topic of the traditional family based on marriage between a man and a woman, responding to calls by activists for recognition of same-sex marriage.

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates January first as its World Day of Peace.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.