Pope Benedict XVI in his Easter Sunday message has urged the Syrian regime to heed international calls to end bloodshed and commit to dialogue.

After celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square, Benedict voiced hope that Easter's joy would comfort Christian communities suffering because of their faith.

He denounced terrorist attacks in Nigeria that have hit Christians and Muslims alike and prayed for peace in coup-struck Mali.

The pope struggled with hoarseness throughout the Mass before a crowd of more than 100,000 faithful. Only hours earlier he had led a three-hour nighttime Easter vigil inside St. Peter's Basilica.

 

Christians celebrate Easter in Jerusalem

Thousands of Christians are celebrating Easter Mass in Jerusalem in an array of processions and prayer sessions.

In the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher, clergymen in flowing white and gold robes celebrated Mass, the air fragrant with incense.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, in the church on a private visit, joined the masses of Christian faithful. He shook hands with pilgrims and spoke to monks in the Old City.

Just outside the ancient city's walls, about 350 Protestants sang Gospel music in the Garden Tomb, where Jesus is believed to be buried.

Easter Sunday caps a week of holidays that commemorate the crucifixion and return to life of Jesus. Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Palm Sunday today and Easter next week.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)