Speed Reads

Quotables

Pope Francis calls for 'urgent' end to Syrian civil war on first day of Middle East trip

Franco Origlia/Getty Images

As Pope Francis kicked off his three-day trip to the Middle East, he called for an "urgent" end to the Syrian civil war, reported The Associated Press.

The pope made his first stop in Jordan, meeting with King Abdullah II, Queen Rania and their children at the palace. There, he made a speech crediting Jordan's "generous welcome" to refugees from Syria. The country is currently hosting 600,000 Syrian refugees, although officials say the number may actually be more than one million.

"I encourage (Jordan's authorities) to persevere in their efforts to seek lasting peace for the entire region," Francis said. "This goal urgently requires that a peaceful solution be found to the crisis in Syria, as well as a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

While Christians make up only about five percent of Syria's population, civilians claim that rebels have targeted towns primarily inhabited by Christians, prompting fears of Islamic extremism shaping the revolt against President Bashar Assad's rule. Pope Francis has spoken out in the past against this targeting, saying that the Middle East must remain a part of the world that is open and welcoming to Christians.