POPE Francis yesterday called for "deadly force" against the "defenceless" in Syria to stop, and for the promotion of peace in Ukraine and other trouble spots around the world.
In Urbi et Orbi, his annual Easter message, he called for urgent humanitarian aid in Syria and a halt to the "brutal terrorist attacks" in Nigeria and violence in Sudan and Iraq.
The Vatican estimated some 150,000 pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square for Easter Mass and to hear the Pope's message delivered from the balcony of St Peter's Basilica.
"We pray in a particular way for Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenceless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue!" the Pope said.
Pope Francis singled out the Ukraine for particular attention.
"We ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country's future," he said.
It is not the first time that the Pope has called for peace in Syria and Ukraine, but he used one of the most important occasions in the Catholic calendar to underline his concern for those suffering from hunger and poverty arising from conflict.
The Argentine pontiff also urged the pilgrims to work to overcome the "scourge of hunger" and "immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible".
In his message he expressed concern for those struck by the Ebola epidemic in west Africa, and greater care for those suffering from other diseases spread through neglect and dire poverty.
He also urged pilgrims to promote "reconciliation and fraternal accord" in Venezuela.
Pope Francis ended the traditional speech with his characteristic informality, wishing the crowds a "Happy Easter!" and "Have a good lunch!"