Pope Francis has used his traditional Christmas address to call for peace in the Middle East. He also had words of comfort to the victims of terrorism and their loved ones following a year of terrorist attacks across the globe.

The pontiff said far too much blood had already been spilled in Syria in a six year conflict, and he called for an end to the war, which he said had helped add to mass migration and homelessness. The 80 year old Argentine also told Israelis and Palestinians that they ought to have the courage to change history.

Giving his address, which he delivered from Saint Peter’s Basilica balcony, he was watched by a huge crowd of 40,000. Although, the square was still not full. It is thought that people may have been worried about the risk of terrorism following the Berlin Christmas market massacre, which left 12 dead and dozens more injured. A truck was turned into a weapon, ploughing into people who had simply been soaking up the festive atmosphere or buying gifts at the market.

Increased security

Since then, security has been ramped up, with armed police and security offers seen patrolling areas around churches across the world. Pope Franis said he now prayed that those who had lost loved ones as a result of terrorism managed to find piece.

In Milan, where the main suspect in the Christmas market attack was shot dead in a gun fight with police outside a train station, a heavy police presence could be seen around the cathedral, and concrete barriers have been put up since the massacre in Germany.

Meanwhile, in France, there there was a similar truck attack in June, officials said 91,000 security forces were guarding public spaces which could be a risk. Meanwhile, religious ceremonies taking place in Germany over the festive period paid tribute to those who lost their lives in the latest terror attack.