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Pope decries slaughter of 'defenseless' Syrians

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI has wished Christmas peace to the world, decrying the slaughter of the "defenseless" in Syria and urging Israelis and Palestinians to find the courage to negotiate.

Delivering the Vatican's traditional Christmas Day message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, a weary-looking and hoarse-sounding Benedict on Tuesday also encouraged Arab Spring countries, especially Egypt, to build just and respectful societies.

He said Egypt was the land `'blessed by the childhood of Jesus."

He also prayed that China's new leaders respect religion, a reference to persecution Chinese Roman Catholics have at times endured under communism.

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