Pope Benedict XVI expressed concern Sunday about the escalating violence in Iraq and the Middle East. He also made an appeal to safeguard the family. 

During his traditional Sunday meeting with the pilgrims in Saint Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the need to quell what he called "the spiral of atrocious carnage" in the Middle East and Iraq.

"There is a need for justice in the Middle East, and there is a need for a serious and credible commitment to peace." But unfortunately, Pope Benedict added, "we don't see them." The pope urged everyone to pray for peace.

Just hours before the pope spoke, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at the empty office of the Palestinian prime minister, who is a member of the Islamic militant group, Hamas, which heads the Palestinian Authority. Israel has launched an offensive in Gaza aimed at forcing militants to free a 19-year-old Israel corporal who was sized last week. In Iraq, violence continues. A car bomb Saturday in Baghdad killed more than 65 people.

Pope Benedict also made an appeal Sunday for governments to protect the traditional family structure. His call came less than a week before a visit to Valencia, in Spain, where he will attend the Catholic Church's World Meeting of Families.

The Vatican's ties with Spain have recently been strained after the government there legalized gay marriage and made it easier to obtain a divorce.

The Socialist government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, which took office in 2004, has also scrapped plans by the previous conservative government to make religion classes mandatory in schools.

Pope Benedict will spend next Saturday and Sunday in Valencia. He is scheduled to meet with the Spanish prime minister during his visit.