DAMASCUS, Syria, APR. 1, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II´s bid to foster Mideast peace will be "one of the strong points" of his meeting in Syria with President Bashar Assad, says a Vatican aide.

Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, was in Damascus to prepare the Holy Father´s visit, which will take place from May 5-8. The Bishop of Rome will be on pilgrimage, retracing the footsteps of St. Paul.

"The Pope will probably refer to [the peace process]," the archbishop explained Saturday. "It will be one of the strong points of the discussion. I think the Holy Father will talk about the regional situation, which means that Lebanon might be included in the agenda of topics to be discussed; it depends on how the interviews are scheduled."

Archbishop Tauran made the above statements, after meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faruk al-Chare, to discuss "the regional situation in the context of the Pope´s visit."

Archbishop Tauran said that he was not "in the know" about Maronite Patriarch Nasrala Sfeir´s possible trip to Syria during John Paul II´s visit. The patriarch is the leader of the principal Christian Church in Lebanon, and has called for an end to Syrian military presence in Lebanon.