“Advent is a time for hope,” His Holiness Pope Francis said at the Angelus on Sunday. “At this time, I would like to make my own the hope of peace of the children of Syria.” The Pontiff added his voice to an initiative of the international charitable foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), by lighting a candle to officially kick off their “Candles for Peace in Syria” Campaign.

As reported by Vatican news, “May these flames of hope dispel the darkness of war,” the Pontiff exclaimed. “Let us pray and help Christians to remain in Syria and the Middle East as witnesses of mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation.” His Holiness Pope Francis extended his appeal, saying “May the flame of hope also reach all those who are suffering in these days from conflicts and tensions in various other parts of the world, near and far.” He prayed that “the prayer of the Church” might “help them feel the closeness of the faithful God”; and might “touch every conscience for a sincere commitment for peace.”

ACN’s statement noted that the candle lighted by the Pontiff was decorated by craftsman from the Old City of Damascus, and “also bears the photos of some 40 children, most of them from Aleppo, together with the logo of the campaign.”