Pope Benedict XVI is sending a delegation, including top Vatican officials and New York's cardinal, to Damascus to express solidarity with the Syrian people suffering in their country's civil war.

The Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said Tuesday that the delegation would to Syria next week if arrangements can be made. The group will consist of seven churchmen, including New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Holy See's top official for inter-religious dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

Bertone said church leaders "cannot be simple spectators" given the "immense" suffering in Syria, and said they are convinced the solution must be a "political" one.

The delegation will express solidarity "to all the population" in the pope's name and offer encouragement to those seeking an accord respecting human rights.