VATICAN CITY (AP) Pope Benedict XVI urged the world to help Iraqis who have fled their country and called for better protection for Christians inside Iraq during talks Friday with Iraq's prime minister, the Vatican said.
The struggle against terrorism and the need for religious freedom also were central issues in the talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman.
Al-Maliki, who is on a European tour, met with Benedict at his vacation palace in Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.
A Vatican communique said a key theme was the need to assist Iraqi refugees, who both men hope will return to their country.
Benedict has frequently expressed concern about the plight of Christians caught in sectarian violence in Iraq.
The Vatican statement said the Christian community in Iraq "strongly feels the need for more security."
The Vatican said al-Maliki and Benedict described reconciliation and dialogue between Christians and Muslims as necessary for the rebuilding of the country.
The Vatican said al-Maliki invited Benedict to Iraq, but gave no indication of Benedict's response.
The ANSA news agency quoted Iraq's ambassador to the Holy See as saying there was no mention in the talks of Tariq Aziz, a Christian who was one of Saddam Hussein's best-known lieutenants.
Aziz and seven others could face the death penalty if convicted on a charge of crimes against humanity in connection to the executions of 42 merchants, who were accused by the government of driving up food prices at a time Iraq was under international sanctions.