Pope Benedict has used his annual Christmas message to the world, calling for peace in global hot spots, including Syria.

The pontiff prayed Tuesday that "peace would spring up for the people of Syria," a country where tens of thousands have died in anti-government unrest.

As he stood on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and addressed thousands of pilgrims below, he also called for peace in Mali, where al-Qaida linked militants occupy part of the country, and Nigeria, where Islamist extremists have waged a bloody campaign.