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Pope remembers victims of religious terrorism

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI has remembered the "numerous victims" of religiously motivated terrorism during an annual reception for diplomats.

Benedict said acts of terrorism were especially prevalent last year in Asia and Africa, citing violence in Pakistan and Nigeria.

An explosion Christmas Day ripped through a Catholic church near Nigeria's capital, killing at least 15, while last spring Pakistan's sole Christian government minister was assassinated.

The pope also expressed hope on Monday that there would be a rapid end to bloodshed in Syria and a speedy start to political dialogue with the presence of independent observers.

The Vatican has diplomatic relations with 179 nations.

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