VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican is stepping up its condemnation of violence in Syria with Pope Benedict XVI calling for urgent humanitarian aid to reach residents.
Benedict also demanded Thursday that those responsible for the bloodshed end it, warning that continued violence will have "strongly negative consequences for the country and entire region."
Benedict, who is due to visit Lebanon in September, spoke to groups working with Eastern rite Catholic churches, many of which work in the region.
The Vatican had been relatively silent at the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime, mirroring the general sentiment of Syrian Christians who largely stuck by Assad out of fear of the Muslim hard-liners in the uprising against his rule.
But the Vatican has become increasingly vocal in its condemnation of the bloodshed.