Pope Francis has called for an end to the fighting in Syria, and for moves towards diplomatic and political rather than military solutions in the region.
The new pontiff denounced the "multiplication of massacres and atrocious acts," including suspected chemical weapons attacks that have left hundreds dead near Damascus.
"It is not clashes, but an ability to meet and to dialogue that offers prospects for a hope of resolving the problems," the Pope said after reciting the Angelus with visitors in St Peter's Square earlier this week.
He continued: "From the depths of my heart, I want to express my closeness in prayer and solidarity with all the victims of this conflict (and) all those who are suffering, especially the children, and ask them to keep their hopes for peace alive.
He asked the international community to "find a solution to this war that is sowing destruction and death."
Archbishop Mario Zenari, the nuncio to Syria, told Vatican Radio he prayed that the leaders of both sides in the conflict as well as leaders in the international community "would be gifted with much wisdom and much prudence" as they decide how to move forward.
"We must do so in a way that these crimes, these massacres never happen again," the archbishop added. "We must find the most appropriate and opportune means to react, ways that will not complicate the situation."
* More on Syria from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/syria