Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday made an urgent appeal for an end to the violence and bloodshed in Syria and urged its leaders to choose the path of dialogue and peace.
The pope's envoy to Syria last month suggested Christians could mediate in the country's deepening conflict and act as a "bridge" between the government and the opposition.
During his weekly Angelus prayer the pope said he was "following with much apprehension the episodes of dramatic and escalating violence in Syria."
"In these past few days, this violence has provoked many victims including several children, and I pray for them, the wounded and all those who suffer from a conflict that remains very worrying."
"I am renewing a pressing call for an end to the violence and the bloodletting," he said.
"I ask the entire world and above all the political authorities in Syria to choose the path of dialogue, reconciliation and commitment in favour of peace," the pontiff said.
"It is urgent to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the different components of the nation, as well as to the wishes of the international community."