In his speech on Christmas Day, Pope Francis said he hopes for a better world, including successful Middle East negotiations in the land of Jesus’ birth, peace for Syria and several war—torn African countries, and dignity for refugees fleeing misery and conflict.

He spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to some 70,000 tourists, pilgrims and Romans in the square below. He said he was joining all those hoping “for a better world.”

Among places ravaged by conflict, Pope Francis singled out Syria, which saw its third Christmas during civil war, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Iraq.

Pope Francis explained his concept of peace.“True peace is not a balancing of opposing forces. It’s not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions,” the pope said in his first Christmas message since being elected pontiff in March. “Peace calls for daily commitment,” Francis said, reading the pages of his speech which were ruffled by a chilly wind.

Recalling the hundreds of migrants who drowned trying to reach European shores, he also prayed that refugees receive hope, consolation and assistance.

In the Mideast, pilgrims celebrated Christmas Day in the ancient Bethlehem church where tradition holds Jesus was born, as candles illuminated the site and the sound of prayer filled its overflowing halls.