VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis on Sunday denounced the "intolerable brutality" being inflicted on Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.
"Unfortunately the tragic news just keeps coming from Iraq and Syria," the pontiff said after his weekly prayer in St Peter's Square, without specifically naming ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).
"We want to assure all those who find themselves in these situations that we have not forgotten them," he said. "Rather we are with them and we are praying intently for the rapid end of the intolerable brutality of which they are victims."
Last week, ISIS kidnapped 220 Assyrians in the Tal Tamr area of Syria where the extremist Islamist group has seized control of 10 Christian villages, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A video released Thursday by the extremists shows men smashing ancient Assyrian statues and other priceless artefacts at the main museum and an archaeological site in the northern city of Mosul.
The pope also called on Venezuelans to refuse violence and "resume a common path for the good of the nation", after a 14-year-old boy was killed in anti-government protests last week.