Pope Benedict's traditional Urbi et Orbi ('to the city and the world') Christmas address from St Peter's Rome wished peace and justice for Syria and other troubled parts of the globe.
The birth of Jesus, the pontiff, head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, said, embodies the fact that "there is hope in the world, a hope in which we can trust, even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations. Truth has sprung up, bringing kindness, justice and peace."
He continued: "Yes, may peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims. Once again I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.
"May peace spring up in the Land where the Redeemer was born, and may he grant Israelis and Palestinians courage to end to long years of conflict and division, and to embark resolutely on the path of negotiation.
"In the countries of North Africa, which are experiencing a major transition in pursuit of a new future - and especially the beloved land of Egypt, blessed by the childhood of Jesus - may citizens work together to build societies founded on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of every person.
"May peace spring up on the vast continent of Asia. May the Child Jesus look graciously on the many peoples who dwell in those lands and, in a special way, upon all those who believe in him. May the King of Peace turn his gaze to the new leaders of the People's Republic of China for the high task which awaits them. I express my hope that, in fulfilling this task, they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of that noble People and of the whole world.
"May the Birth of Christ favour the return of peace in Mali and that of concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians. May the Redeemer bring help and comfort to the refugees from the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and grant peace to Kenya, where brutal attacks have struck the civilian population and places of worship.
"May the Child Jesus bless the great numbers of the faithful who celebrate him in Latin America. May he increase their human and Christian virtues, sustain all those forced to leave behind their families and their land," declared the Pope.