Peace in the Middle East top of the agenda as Pontiff welcomes Russian President to the Vatican

Peace in the Middle East, particularly the ongoing war in Syria, topped the agenda as Pope Francis welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Vatican.

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.

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.”

The Vatican said Putin thanked the Pope for a letter the Pontiff had written him in September when the Russian president was hosting a summit of the G-20 leaders of the world’s largest economies. The Pope asked the leaders to “lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution” to the Syria crisis and promote dialogue and negotiation.