Pope: Urgent reforms needed in Syria to end violence
Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday called for "urgent reforms" and an end to violence in Syria and other troubled countries in the Middle East and North Africa, DPA reported.
The pontiff made the appeal to Syria's new ambassador to the Vatican, Hussan Edin Aala, who presented his credentials to the pontiff together with counterparts from Moldova, Equatorial Guinea, Belize, Ghana and New Zealand.
The call came as protesters in Syria continued to stage demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad. Rights groups say around 1,300 people have been killed since the protests began in February.
"Events during recent months in several Mediterranean countries, including Syria, manifest a desire for a better future ... (and) the urgency for political, economic and social reforms," Benedict was quoted as saying by the ANSA newsagency.
"There's the hope that this change will be achieved by avoiding intolerance, discrimination, conflicts and violence," the pontiff added.
Referring to the different religious groups that live in mostly Sunni Muslim Syria - but which also includes Shia Muslim, Christian and Druze minorities - the pontiff described the country as "traditionally an example of tolerance".
Benedict, the spiritual leader of the world's more than 1.1 billion Catholics also stressed what he said was the "positive role" played by Christians in Syria in "building a peaceful society for all."