Holy Father Pope Francis received members of a delegation representing the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, the primus inter pares (first among equals) of the heads of the autocephalous churches the make up the Eastern Orthodox Church. At the audience, His Holiness Pope Francis welcomed the delegation as a “a sign of the growth of communion between the Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Patriarch,” while also recalling “the common roots of our sister Churches.”

As reported by Vatican news, Holy Father Pope Francis remarked that “It is comforting for me to realize that this convergence of views with my beloved brother Bartholomew is being translated into a concrete common effort.” Further, His Holiness added, “It is my prayerful hope that there will be increased opportunities for us Catholics and Orthodox at all levels to work together, pray together and proclaim together the one Gospel of Jesus Christ received from the apostolic preaching, in order to experience ever fully in our shared journey the unity that by God’s grace already joins us.”

The now customary audience is taking place in the context of the mutual exchange of delegations for the feasts of the heavenly patrons of respective Churches: the visit of the Orthodox delegation to Rome for the feast of Sts Peter and Paul being reciprocated with a Catholic delegation to Constantinople (modern Istanbul) for the feast of St Andrew at the end of November.