Peace in the Middle East -- especially the ongoing civil war of nearly three years in Syria -- topped the agenda yesterday, as Pope Francis welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Vatican, the Catholic News website reports today (November 26, 2013).
The Russian president "conveyed the greetings of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, but there was not a discussion of ecumenical relations," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. Moreover, Putin failed to extend an invitation to Pope Francis to visit his predominantly Orthodox Christian nation.
A formal statement issued after the meeting said "special attention was given to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and to the serious situation in Syria."
Putin's government has been a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad -- supplying him with modern Russian weapons periodically during Syria's civil war -- and has blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions to authorize the use of force to oust the Syrian president.