As the death toll from several church bombings on Christmas day in Nigeria rose on Monday, Pope Benedict expressed his sadness and sympathy for the victims while calling for forgiveness.

The Pope, who made his appeal in St. Peter’s Square, said Nigeria was “drenched with innocent blood,” calling the bombing “senseless.”

But he still called for peace, respect, reconciliation and love. He said violence is a path that only leads to pain, destruction and death.

“Today we celebrate Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. May his example inspire us to be courageous in living our faith in Christ our Savior and ready to forgive those who harm us,” he said.

There were explosions at churches in five cities on Sunday, according to CNN.

A bombing outside St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, near the capital Abuja killed at least 32 people, wounding 65. A second blast in the city of Jos went off near the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church killing three people. Officials said three people died in an explosion in Damaturu. Other blast sites included Kano and Gadaka, journalist Hassan John told CNN.

The event marks the second holiday season when Christian houses of worship have been bombed in West Africa.

Government officials alleged that extremist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility.

The group sent a message sent to Nigerian media, controller-general of Nigeria's fire service, Olusegun Okebiorun told CNN.

"We condemn this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a written statement. "We offer our sincere condolences to the Nigerian people and especially those who lost family and loved ones."