Pope meets with Syrian VP, discusses Iraq refugees, Christians

Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials met Wednesday with Syria's vice president, Farouk al-Sharaa, to discuss the situation of Christians in Syria and the role Damascus should play in bringing peace to the Middle East, the Vatican said. Al-Sharaa delivered a personal message to Benedict from Syrian President Bashar Assad, although the contents weren't released. The visit came on the eve of Benedict's audience with Israeli President Shimon Peres, part of a new international diplomatic push under way on the Middle East. The Vatican said al-Sharaa met with the pope and the Vatican's Foreign Minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.