Last updated: 22 October, 2012

Top-level Vatican delegation to visit Syria

A top-level Vatican peace mission to Syria will take place “as soon as possible” but may be delayed by recent events, spokesman Federico Lombardi said Monday.

A mid-week departure of leading prelates had been anticipated, but Lombardi told reporters: “We of course must take into account the events of recent days,” in a reference to fighting in Damascus and related unrest in Beirut.

It is a matter “of responding effectively to the proposed goals of solidarity, peace and reconciliation despite the very serious events that have taken place recently in the region,” Lombardi said.

Pope Benedict XVI’s right-hand man, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, announced the planned mission last week.

The delegation will be made up of top Vatican officials including Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue.

There will also be leading prelates from three countries with experience of conflict: Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Vietnam.

Fierce fighting erupted on the outskirts of Damascus on Monday when troops tried to storm a rebel-controlled town, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Beirut meanwhile has been engulfed in violence since the murder on Friday of a top police official which was blamed on Syria.

Around 7.5 percent of Syria’s 20 million inhabitants are Christian.