People hold Syrian flags and signs against a possible attack to Syria, prior to the start of a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis says "violence and war are never the way to peace!"
He spoke to tens of thousands of people who answered his call for a grassroots cry for peace and filled St. Peter's Square late Saturday for a four-hour Syria peace vigil.
The Vatican estimated about 100,000 took part in the Rome event, making it one of the largest rallies in the West against proposed U.S.-led military action against the Syrian regime following the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
Francis spent most of the vigil in silent prayer, but during his speech he denounced those who are "captivated by the idols of dominion and power" and destroy God's creation through war.
The pontiff said "May the noise of weapons cease!" adding that "War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity."
In Damascus, a few dozen Syrian Christians attended a church service, joining Francis' invitation for a global participation in the day of fasting and prayer and to oppose outside military intervention in the conflict.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)