Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Reuters and Hasani Gittens

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis welcomed on Sunday two agreements aimed at ending the civil war in Syria and forming a national unity government in Libya.

Francis, who turned 79 on Thursday, told crowds around the Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square he was thinking of "beloved Syria (and) expressing my eager approval of the agreement the international community has just reached".

The United Nations Security Council veto powers agreed a draft resolution last week to endorse an international roadmap for a peace process in Syria, where almost five years of civil war has killed more than 250,000 people.

In his last Angelus before Christmas, the Argentine pontiff called for continued peace efforts for Syria and praised the work of negotiators in Libya, where warring factions signed a U.N.-brokered deal on Thursday intended to bring stability and help to combat a growing Islamic State presence.

"The commitment to form a national unity government, taken on recently by those involved, encourages hope for the future," Francis said.

Francis on Sunday also blessed figures of the Christ Child brought by worshipers, which will then be "placed in mangers of Christmas crèches in and around Rome and throughout Italy this Christmas season," according to the Vatican.

“Dear children,” Pope Francis said following the traditional prayer, “listen carefully: when you pray before your Nativity Scene, remember to pray also for me, as I shall remember you.”

He concluded with, "I thank you heartily — and have a Merry Christmas!"

A nun holds a figurine of baby Jesus as Pope Francis leads his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican December 20, 2015.TONY GENTILE / Reuters