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US Secretary of State meets with Vatican counterpart

This morning Vatican Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, at the Vatican.

Their discussions centered around foreign policy, according to the Vatican Press Office, specifically the peace process in the Middle East—in particular in Syria in view of the upcoming Geneva II Peace Conference scheduled for Jan. 22. The conference, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, is meant to broker an end to the Syrian civil war.

“Naturally the concerns and hopes of the Holy See were discussed, as also expressed in the speech the pope delivered to the Diplomatic Corps yesterday,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press Office, wrote in a statement following the meeting. “That’s to say the desire for a pacific solution to the conflict and a commitment for humanitarian aid for the populations so deeply affected by the crisis.”

Read Pope Francis’ Jan. 13 address here: www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2003/january/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20030113_diplomatic-corps_en.html.

The leaders also discussed negotiations between Israel and Palestine in an effort to “encourage, pursue and hopefully achieve the aspired for positive result;” the situation in Africa, especially South Sudan; and matters of special interest to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops including healthcare reform.

“The Holy See expressed its concern, shared by the bishops of the United States, regarding rules regulating the health reform relating to guaranteeing freedom of religion and conscientious objection,” Father Lombardi wrote.

Also a topic of conversation was U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposed “plan to contrast poverty and improve the situation for the most needy areas of the population.”

“The mood of the meeting was a positive one,” Father Lombardi continued. “It was a constructive encounter, an important one and the length of time it lasted is indicative of its underlying significance.”

The meeting lasted one hour and 40 minutes. Also attending were: U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Kenneth F. Hackett, three staff members of the U.S. Secretary of State, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Mamberti and two other Curia officials.

“This meeting was extremely important,” Father Lombardi concluded, “… extremely fruitful and rich in content.”

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