08/04/2012 09:20 BST | Updated 08/04/2012 11:03 BST

Pope Urges Syria To End The Bloodshed In Easter Sunday Message

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

The 84-year-old said: "May the risen Christ grant hope to the Middle East and enable all the ethnic, cultural and religious groups in that region to work together to advance the common good and respect for human rights.

"Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community."

As he spoke, 74 civilians were killed as Syrian troops clashed with opposition fighters, activists said.

The pope also called for humanitarian assistance on behalf of Syrians fleeing the conflict into neighbouring Turkey.

"May the many refugees from that country who are in need of humanitarian assistance find the acceptance and solidarity capable of relieving their dreadful sufferings," he said.

Above: video shot in Homs and uploaded on 5 April appears to show missiles slamming into the city streets.

More than 2,350 Syrian refugees have crossed the border so far, Turkish officials say.

The regime has said it accepts a peace plan by the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, but so far there has been little evidence that it is prepared to end its brutal crackdown on the opposition.

The six-point plan calls for a truce to take effect on Thursday, provided government forces begin pulling back from towns two days earlier.

The United Nations believes around 10,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of anti-government protests in March 2011.

Activists put the total closer to 12,000 deaths, 900 of which are believed to be children.

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, where at least 20 people were killed after a bomb exploded near a church in the northern city of Kaduna as Easter Sunday services were being held.

The pope also prayed for peace in coup-struck Mali: "Now experiencing delicate political developments, may the glorious Christ grant peace and stability."

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 night-time Easter vigil inside St Peter's Basilica.