Pope Benedict XVI used his annual Easter Sunday message to call for an end to the bloodshed in Syria as tens of thousands of people listened under sun-drenched skies in St. Peter's Square.

In his Urbi et Orbi (to the City of Rome and to the World) address, he urged the Syrian regime to heed international calls to end the violence and to commit to peace talks.

"Benedict also expressed concerns about terrorist attacks in Nigeria that have targeted Christians and Muslims alike. He also prayed for peace in Mali where the government was just been ousted in a coup," CBC's Megan Williams reported from Rome.

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Looking tired and sounding hoarse after his recent whirlwind visit to Cuba and Mexico, the 84-year-old pontiff stood in front of a gold throne under a red canopy and wished the crowds a Happy Easter.

Benedict, who turns 85 on April 16, is wrapping up stamina-taxing Holy Week ceremonies that drew huge crowds to Rome.

His speech, delivered on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, followed the celebration of Easter Sunday mass, marking Christianity's most joyous day of the year. The faithful celebrate their belief that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Late Saturday, during a three-hour vigil mass, the Pope talked about disbelief in God, or "the darkness enshrouding God and the "obscuring" of values, as being the world's greatest problem right now. He also expressed concern for the unemployed and others impacted by economic problems around the world.

"Last night, he didn't even walk the distance inside St. Peter's Basilica. They put him on a raised platform and wheeled the platform to the altar, so they're looking for ways to save the Pope energy," CBC's Megan Williams reported from Rome.

"That said, he still has a lot of tenacity, intellectually and mentally. On Thursday, he gave a very stern address to priests in Austria who would like women ordained, so he's fighting that. Certainly he's not backing away from the doctrine that the church wants to staunchly defend, but physically they're trying to find ways to save his health at this late age."

 

With files from The Associated Press