Vatican City, December 26 - During the Pope's Urbi et Orbi (To the City and the World) Christmas Day message, Benedict XVI called on followers to "open the door of faith" and appealed for an end to the conflict in Syria "which does not spare even the defenseless and reaps innocent victims". The 85-year-old pontiff called for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, the land where the "redeemer was born", calling on both sides to "embark resolutely" on the path of negotiation. Pope Benedict also turned towards China and the challenges facing its new leaders, expressing "hope that, in fulfilling this task, they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of the people and of the whole world". Relations between the Vatican and China have been strained over the past year after Chinese authorities ordained a bishop without the approval of the Vatican, and arrested a bishop who criticized state interference in the church. Benedict also called for and end to the continued violence in Nigeria where "savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians". The Islamist Boko Haram group, which wants to impose Islamic law in Nigeria, has carried out a number of attacks on churches over the last year, mostly in the majority Muslim north of the country. The ceremony and message is a central feature of Christmas for the 1.1 billion Catholics around the world and is given in 65 languages.
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di Sebastiano Caspanello