ROME— Pope Francis on Sunday condemned every form of child abuse, calling it a “tragedy” that can’t be tolerated, and also asked all the parties involved in the Syrian conflict to respect the cease fire.

“[Abuse of minors] is a tragedy,” Francis said as he led the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly Regina Coeli prayer.

“We mustn’t tolerate abuse against children,” the pope said. “We must defend them, and we must punish the abusers severely.”

The pontiff was speaking off-the-cuff after thanking the Italian Association Meter for the work they do in the fight against pedophilia. The institution was founded in 1989 by Father Fortunato Di Noto in the northern region of Sicilia, and has since then fought child abuse and also on-line child pornography.

Through the three years of his pontificate Francis has had an uneven record on sex abuse, with many survivor associations decrying that he often says the right things, but that little has changed on issues such as accountability.

For instance, during his visit to the United States last September, Pope Francis met with a group of child sexual abuse survivors in Philadelphia. After that encounter, he had a meeting with bishops from around the world who were attending the World Meeting of Families.

“I’m overwhelmed by the shame that people who were in charge of caring for those young ones raped them and caused them great damages,” he told them.

“God cries!”

On that occasion, he vowed that crimes against minors will not be hidden: “I promise that all those responsible will be held accountable.”

At the recommendation of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he instituted, last June he created a Vatican tribunal to judge bishops who covered up for pedophile priests.

Yet because of unresolved legal and administrative questions, and resistance both inside and outside of the Holy See, the body has had difficulties getting off the ground.

On Syria, Francis said he “receives with deep sorrow the tragic news” coming from the country, with violence intensifying in recent days.

The government of Bashar al-Assad and the rebel forces had reached a ceasefire, backed both by the United States and Russia. However, according to a civil defense organization in opposition-controlled Syria known as White Helmets, in the last eight days the government launched over 260 airstrikes, 110 artillery strikes and 18 missiles.

On Thursday, bombs hit a hospital in Aleppo run by Doctors Without Borders, killing more than 50 people, including three children and the city’s only remaining pediatrician.

“The sky is falling in Aleppo,” said Muskilda Zancada, MSF head of mission in Syria. “The city, consistently at the front lines of this brutal war, is now in danger of coming under a full offensive.”

“Attacks on hospitals and medical staff are a devastating indicator of the brutal ways in which civilians are targeted in the war in Syria,” Zancada said.

All sides have accused each other of truce violations.

According to the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, 250 have been killed since April 22, 40 of whom were children.

Francis said he felt sorrow over the “spiral of violence that continues to aggravate the already desperate humanitarian situation of the country, particularly the city of Aleppo.”

“I urge all parties of the conflict to respect the cease fire and to strengthen the ongoing dialogue, the only path to peace,” he said.