VATICAN CITY (AFP) -- Pope Francis urged peace around the world in his traditional Christmas address on Sunday, calling for weapons in Syria to fall silent and offering comfort to victims of terrorism.
As Europe ramped up security for the holiday just days after the truck attack that left 12 dead at a Berlin Christmas market, the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics said he hoped for "peace to those who have lost a person dear to them as a result of brutal acts of terrorism".
Addressing tens of thousands of worshippers gathered at the Vatican to hear the pontiff give his fourth "Urbi et Orbi" (To the City and The World) message, Francis said "far too much blood has been spilled" in Syria's nearly six-year war.
"It is time for weapons to be still forever, and the international community to actively seek a negotiated solution," the pontiff told the crowds from the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica.
He also urged Israelis and Palestinians to "have the courage and the determination to write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way to the will to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony."
The pope also urged peace in Iraq, Libya and Yemen -- "where their peoples suffer war and the brutality of terrorism" -- and expressed hope for an end to conflicts in Africa, including in Nigeria and South Sudan.