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Pope Francis shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a private audience. Below: The pair sit down for talks (CNS and video via Rome Reports )

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

Lady Warsi has warned of growing persecution in the region

Exodus is on a biblical scale, says Baroness Warsi

Archbishop Mario Zenari  (AP)

No casualties reported after apostolic nunciature in Damascus hit by rocket on Tuesday morning

Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt

Papal nuncio to the UN tells panel Church has helped “refugees for centuries and will always do it”

Three men at mourned at a church in Damascus (Photo: CNS)

Bishop Melki says he fears that the situation of Syria will become like that in Iraq

Pope Francis greets people during his general audience in St Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday (CNS)

Francis elaborates on ‘Church as mother’ theme during general audience

Pope Francis addresses clergy at the Basilica of St John Lateran yesterday (AP)

Morning Catholic must-reads: 17/09/13

A daily guide to what’s happening in the Catholic Church

Pope Francis led a vigil to pray for peace in Syria in St Peter's Square last weekend (CNS)

We must demand that our moralising, ineffectual political leaders take action

Archbishop Francis A Chullikatt, Vatican nuncio to the United Nations, celebrates a Mass for a peace in Syria at St Patrick's Cathedral in New York (CNS)

Archbishop Francis A Chullikatt urges a “cessation, not an escalation of violence” in war-torn country

Pope Francis greets the crowd after praying the Angelus (CNS)

Pope Francis has urged Catholics to say “no’ to violence