CASTEL GANDOFLO, Italy, OCT. 1, 2012 ( Benedict XVI on Sunday made an appeal to end the crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as the United Nations gathered in a high-level meeting to attempt to find solutions for the conflict there.

A group of rebels known as M23, which defected from the national army in recent months, has been fighting in the region. Some 300,000 civilians have been uprooted.

The Pope spoke specifically of the refugees and "the women and the children who suffer violence and profound hardship because of the persistent armed clashes."

According to the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, in a UN news report, Eastern DRC has been called “the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman." This is because mass rape and other forms of sexual violence continue to be used as weapons of war. Ban also noted the "forcible recruitment of hundreds of children who are being used as combatants and sex slaves and, in some instances, killed."

Ban lamented reports of external support for the M23, and urged an end to this “destabilizing assistance.”

Benedict XVI made his appeal after praying the midday Angelus on Sunday.

"I pray to God that peaceful means may be found to open dialogue and protect the innocent," the Holy Father said, "that peace based on justice may return as swiftly as possible; and that the fraternal coexistence of those sorely-tried peoples may be restored, there and throughout the region."