Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Friday, 1 January 2010

Pope Benedict XVI appeals for peace in 2010

Pope Benedict XVI, file pic from 31 December 2009
The pope was speaking on what Catholics call the World Day of Peace

The Pope has called for peace and the protection of children as he celebrated a Mass to mark the start of 2010.

Pope Benedict XVI said peace began with mutual respect between people, regardless of their ethnicity or faith.

He said the shared characteristics of children such as laughter and tears made it clear all men were brothers.

Marking the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, the Pope appealed to armed groups to "stop, reflect and abandon the way of violence".

"Respect others, regardless of their skin colour, nationality, language, religion," he said.

The leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics added that the value of respect for all should be taught from an early age.

He remarked that it was increasingly common for children from different countries and backgrounds to share the same classroom.

"Their faces are a prophecy of the kind of humanity we are called upon to create: a family of families and peoples," said Pope Benedict.

Pictures of young people caught up in conflicts with faces "disfigured by pain and desperation" were a silent appeal for peace, said the 82-year-old pontiff.

He also called for people to take more care of the environment, saying that the degradation of man led to the degradation of the planet.

Pope Benedict was speaking in St Peter's Basilica a week after he was knocked down in the Rome cathedral by a woman during a Christmas Eve liturgy.

The pontiff was unhurt in the melee, but an elderly French cardinal broke his hip.

The Vatican said the 25-year-old woman involved was mentally unstable.

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