Appearing at noon from the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica, the pope also pronounced Christmas blessings in 65 languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Swahili, and his native German.
The "Urbi et Orbi" (to the people of Rome and to the world) blessing was broadcast on television and radio to more than 60 countries.
The spiritual leader of the world's more than 1.1 billion Roman Catholics mentioned several of the world's trouble spots, expressing the need to "speak out for those who have no voice."
Benedict asked God's help for the peoples of the Horn of Africa," who suffer from hunger and food shortages, aggravated at times by a persistent state of insecurity."
The pontiff also asked God to "encourage the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians," and for an end to the violence in Syria.
Benedict prayed for a "full reconciliation and stability" in Iraq and Afghanistan and for dialogue and cooperation in Myanmar.
The Vatican has also denounced the deadly Christmas Day attacks on Nigerian churches as a sign of "cruelty and absurd, blind hatred" that shows no respect for human life.
compiled from agency reports