The Straits Times
Published on Dec 26, 2012

Pope urges end to bloodshed in Christmas message


VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday called for an "end to the bloodshed" in Syria and denounced the "savage" violence in Africa, even as news came in of a Christmas attack on Christians in Nigeria.

Speaking in his traditional Christmas message, the pope touched on several other of the world's conflict zones. A capacity crowd of 40,000 pilgrims filled the vast St Peter's Square to hear the 85-year-old pope, resplendent in red vestments, deliver the "Urbi et Orbi" (To the City and the World) message.

Speaking from the balcony of St Peter's Basilica, the pope called for a return of peace in Nigeria, where he said "savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians." But even as he spoke, news was filtering in of a deadly Christmas Eve attack there.

Gunmen attacked a church in the northern state of Yobe during a Christmas Eve service, residents and police said, killing six people including the pastor, before setting the building ablaze. It is the latest attack to be blamed on the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram, which has repeatedly targeted churches during times of worship, including multiple attacks last year on Christmas Day.