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Pope blasts arms dealers at start of Mideast trip

Saturday - 5/24/2014, 8:20pm  ET

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) -- Pope Francis is in the Middle East on a three-day visit.

On his first day there, he denounced arms dealers and appealed for an urgent end to the Syrian civil war.

Francis deviated from his prepared remarks to make a strong plea for peace during his first day in Jordan, praying for God to "convert those who seek war, those who make and sell weapons!"

He called the arms trade "the root of evil, the hatred, the love of money."

The pope's tough words echoed the diatribe he delivered a few weeks ago against mobsters in Italy, denouncing their activities and praying that they turn away from evil to embrace a more dignified life.

He also held an emotional meeting Saturday with war refugees from Syria and Iraq who have fled to Jordan and held private talks with King Abdullah II, Queen Rania and their children at the royal palace.

Francis thanked Jordan for its "generous welcome" to Syrian refugees and called for an urgent resolution to the civil war next door.

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