Pope Benedict XVI appealed for peace in the Middle East during his Easter message at St Peter's Basilica.
Up to 100,000 came to hear the pope deliver his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" (Latin for "to the city and the world") speech. The pope, who turns 85 next week, held a night time vigil in the church.
The pope directed part of his message at the Syrian government, which has been condemned internationally for its brutal crackdown on opposing rebels.
"Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community," he said.
He called for humanitarian assistance for Syrians facing "dreadful sufferings."
The Pope remembered the millions of believers around the world who continue to experience hardship for their faith, saying that Christ was "hope and comfort in a particular way for those Christian communities suffering most for their faith on account of discrimination and persecution."
In Nigeria, where hundreds of Christians have been killed in recent years by militants, he prayed that the joy of Easter would "grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedoms of its citizens."
He prayed that there would be "peace and stability" in Mali, which is set to return to civilian government after a recent coup.
Israelis and Palestinians were urged to "courageously take up anew the peace process."