Pope Benedict XVI addresses faithful on Christmas

Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to the bloodshed in Syria and the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in his Christmas message on Sunday, an appeal for peace that was challenged by deadly attacks on Nigerian churches.

Benedict delivered his "Urbi et Orbi" speech (Latin for "to the city and to the world") from the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica overlooking a sun-drenched piazza below, before thousands of jubilant tourists and pilgrims, and hundreds of colorful Swiss Guards and Italian military bands.

The 84-year-old pope, fresh off a late-night Christmas Eve Mass, said he prayed that the birth of Jesus, which Christmas celebrates, would send a message to all who need to be saved from hardships.

He said he prayed that God would help the Israelis and the Palestinians resume talks.

"May he bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed," he said.

The pope didn't mention the deadly blasts on churches in Nigeria, but the Vatican issued a statement denouncing the attacks as a sign of "cruelty and absurd, blind hatred" that shows no respect for human life.

Early on Sunday, an explosion ripped through a Catholic church during Christmas Mass near Nigeria's capital of Abuja, and an emergency worker reported that 25 people were killed. A second explosion struck near a church in Nigeria's restive central city of Jos, while two other explosions hit the northeast state of Yobe.

A radical Muslim sect claimed the attack and another bombing near a church in the restive city of Jos, as explosions also struck the nation's northeast.

After his speech, Benedict delivered Christmas greetings in 65 different languages, from Mongolian to Maori, Aramaic to Albanian, Tamil to Thai. "May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the Saviour has been born for us," he said in English.

Then he spoke in his mother tongue, German. "The birth of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of man, may fill your life with joy and rich grace. His peace may dwell in your hearts. Blessed and Merry Christmas," he said. Hundreds of Spanish and Portuguese speaking tourists and pilgrims loudly welcomed Benedict's Christmas greeting in their languages.

He finished the list with Guarani and Latin, as the bells tolled from St. Peter's enormous bell towers.

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