Pope Francis led prayers at the Vatican yesterday for those persecuted for their faith, particularly those suffering in Syria and Iraq.
"Unfortunately, there is no cessation in the dramatic news about violence, kidnapping and harassment against Christians reaching us from Syria and Iraq," the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio.
Last week Islamic State kidnapped more 220 Assyrian Christians in north-eastern Syria, 19 of whom have since been released although the rest are still detained.
The Pope prayed for an end to the "intolerable brutality" inflicted on those living in the region.
He led the thousands gathered in St Peter's Square in silent prayer for "these brothers and sisters who suffer for their faith in Syria and Iraq," the Associated Press reports.
He said he wanted to assure those kidnapped and the victims of other atrocities that "we don't forget them."
Pope Francis also urged Catholics "according to their ability, to work to alleviate the suffering of those who are afflicted, often only because of the faith they profess".