Pope Francis calls for Korean reconciliation and Syrian peace

Pope Francis on Monday urged reconciliation on the Korean peninsula and voiced hope that talks in Geneva next week will kick off a peace process in Syria.

"I wish to implore from God the gift of reconciliation on the peninsula, and I trust that, for the good of all the Korean people, the interested parties will tirelessly seek out points of agreement," Francis said in a speech to the Vatican diplomatic corps.

Francis also expressed grave concern about the humanitarian situation in Syria and said urgent aid should be allowed to reach all parts of the country.

"What is presently needed is a renewed political will to end the conflict. In this regard, I express my hope that the Geneva 2 Conference, to be held on 22 January, will mark the beginning of the desired peace process," he told the ambassadors.

Francis also pleaded for "social harmony" in Egypt and peace and stability in Iraq and said the exodus of Christian minorities from the Middle East and north Africa continued to be "a source of concern."

The 77-year-old pontiff decried the "innocent blood" spilt in Nigeria, the "devastation and death" in the Central African Republic and "a new humanitarian crisis" in South Sudan.

He voiced satisfaction over Iran nuclear negotiations and the restoration of democracy in Mali and said Israeli-Palestinian talks should lead to "courageous decisions aimed at finding a just and lasting solution to a conflict which urgently needs to end."