.- Pope Benedict XVI met Wednesday with 30 children who survived the 2004 school hostage siege in Beslan, Russia, greeting them and posing for a photo with them.
The children, all wearing blue baseball caps, attended the pope's 90-minute public audience in the Vatican's audience hall as part of a weeklong visit to Italy.
After the audience, the children headed into the private meeting with the pope. After their time with Pope Benedict, which included a group photo, the children toured the famed Vatican gardens.
Italy's civil defense department, which had sent rescuers to Beslan during the hostage crisis, brought the children to Italy for a weeklong trip, which also included visits to the Colosseum, a soccer match in Milan and a trip to Venice.
The children survived the three-day September 2004 assault on the Beslan school, in which 331 people, 186 of them children, were killed by terrorists demanding that Russian troops withdraw from the nearby republic of Chechnya.