BEIRUT - Pope Benedict on Sunday urged Christians of the Middle East to work for peace to counter "the grim trail of death and destruction" in the world, in a sermon delivered in Lebanon as civil war raged in neighboring Syria.

Benedict was speaking at an open-air mass on Beirut's Mediterranean seafront attended by 350,000 worshipers and leaders of Lebanon's Christian and Muslim communities.

Peace between warring factions and among the many religious groups in the Middle East has been a central theme of his visit to Lebanon, along with his call to Christians not to leave the region despite war and growing pressure from radical Islamists.

Activists say more than 27,000 people have been killed in Syria's 18-month-old mainly Sunni Muslim uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Few Christians, who form about 10 percent of Syria's population, have joined the uprising against Assad, fearing it could bring hostile Islamists to power in Damascus.

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