Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, hosted a lengthy meeting with his U.S. counterpart, John Kerry, today (January 14, 2014) to discuss ongoing tensions in the Middle East, as well as the U.S. bishops' concerns about the Obama administration's health care mandate, according to the Catholic News website.
"The meeting was very broad; it lasted about one hour and 40 minutes," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
"Various themes were discussed and naturally those regarded the Middle East first of all -- the situation in Syria and preparations for the (upcoming peace) conference in Geneva," Father Lombardi said, referring to the UN-sponsored peace talks scheduled for January 22.
Father Lombardi added that the Vatican's position on the Syrian conflict -- which has been ongoing since March 2011 -- was explained by the pope in his January 13 speech to diplomats serving at the Vatican. The Vatican's top concerns, he said, are to restore peace, address the serious humanitarian situation, and help the suffering Syrian population.