Pope prays for 21 Orthodox nuns abducted in Syria by rebels, urges peace

Pope Francis has called for prayers for 12 Orthodox Christian nuns who were abducted from their convent by Syrian opposition fighters.

Francis made the appeal at the end of his general audience Wednesday. He said: "I invite everyone to pray for the sisters of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Santa Takla in Maaloula, Syria, who were taken by force by armed men two days ago."

He added: "Let us continue to pray and to work together for peace."

The abduction has added to fears that hardline Muslim rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad were increasingly targeting Christians.

Syria's minorities, including Christians, have mostly sided with Assad or remained neutral in Syria's civil war, fearing for their fate if the rebels, increasingly dominated by Islamic extremists, come to power.