Syrian President Bashar al Assad has sent a letter to Pope Francis, Vatican sources confirmed Saturday.
The contents of the message were not revealed but Vatican officials said the message likely staked out the position of Assad’s government ahead of United Nations-brokered talks to end Syria’s three-year-old civil war, set to begin in Geneva January 22. The Vatican has permanent observer status at the U.N. and representatives at U.N. organizations in Geneva.
Pope Francis has taken a personal interest in resolving the Syrian conflict and called repeatedly for a negotiated end to the fighting, most recently on Christmas Day, Reuters reports. The Vatican is also interested in information on the fate of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit priest and supporter of Syrian rebels who disappeared in the country in July.