Vatican City: Pope Francis has urged Catholic church leaders to join him in prayers for peace and reconciliation in Middle East and Africa.
"We feel pain and deep concern at events in Syria, Iraq, Jerusalem, and in the West Bank," Francis told 270 prelates attending a summit on the family at the Vatican on Friday.
"We are witnessing an escalation of violence that is affecting innocent civilians and stoking a vast humanitarian crisis," he said.
The pontiff asked for "intense and faithful" prayers that also sought to "express solidarity with Church leaders from the region as well as with its priests and congregations and all of its inhabitants."
Francis also called on the world's nations to help the various sides to resolve ongoing conflicts through diplomacy and international law "in a far-sighted and disinterested way".
Conflicts bring suffering to areas of Africa as well as the Middle East, Francis reminded the Church leaders.
"I wish our prayers to include those parts of Africa that are also wracked by conflict," he stated.