Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has sent Pope Francis a private message, the Vatican said on Saturday, without disclosing its contents.
According to Reuters, it was the first known time Assad has sent a direct message to the pontiff since the start of Syria's civil war in 2011. Pope Francis has made numerous appeals for an end to the conflict, the latest on Christmas Day.
Vatican sources said the message likely included the Syrian government's position ahead of peace talks due to start on January 22 under UN auspices in Geneva. According to the Syrian presidency Twitter account, Assad called for peace through dialogue.
The Vatican said a delegation headed by Joseph Sweid, a Syrian minister of state, held talks in the Vatican with the pope's secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin and his foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.
"The delegation brought a message from President Assad for the Holy Father and illustrated the position of the Syrian government," a statement said.