Delivering the Vatican's traditional Christmas day message from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica, a weary-looking and hoarse-sounding Benedict also encouraged Arab spring nations, especially Egypt, to build just and respectful societies.
He said Egypt was the land "blessed by the childhood of Jesus". He also prayed that China's new leaders respect religion, a reference to persecution Chinese Roman Catholics have at times endured under communism.
As the 85-year-old pontiff, dressed in an ermine-trimmed red cape, gingerly set foot on the balcony, the pilgrims, tourists and Romans below in St Peter's Square erupted in cheers.
Less than 12 hours earlier, Benedict led a two-hour Christmas Eve ceremony in the basilica. He sounded hoarse and looked weary as he read his Christmas message and then holiday greetings in 65 languages.
In his "Urbi et Orbi" speech, which traditionally reviews world events and global challenges, Benedict prayed that "peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict that does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims". He called for easier access to help refugees and for "dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict".
Benedict prayed that God "grant Israelis and Palestinians courage to end long years of conflict and division, and to embark resolutely on the path to negotiation".
Israel, backed by the United States, opposed the Palestinian statehood bid, saying it was a ploy to bypass negotiations, something the Palestinians deny. Talks stalled four years ago. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said that in a meeting with the Pope last week, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas "emphasised our total readiness to resume negotiations".
The Vatican has been worried for decades about the well-being of its flock in China, who are loyal to the Pope in defiance of the communist government's support of an officially-sponsored church, and relations between Beijing and the Holy See are often tense.
Speaking about China's newly-installed leaders, Benedict expressed hope that "they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each other, 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".