Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a message to Pope Francis Saturday, that state media said expressed his determination to defend Syrians of all religions against hardline Islamists among the rebels.
The message was passed on through a Syrian government delegation that held talks at the Vatican with the pontiff's Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and foreign affairs official Dominique Mamberti.
"The delegation brought a message from President Assad for the Holy Father and explained the position of the Syrian government," a statement said.
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