Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Pope Francis Pray for Middle East Peace

Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Catholic pontiff Pope Francis prayed for peace in the Middle East in Bari, Italy on Saturday.

The Prayer Day for Peace in the Middle East started with the arrival of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Bari. The choice of the location in the south Adriatic has deep symbolic value in terms of Catholic-Orthodox relations.

Specifically, Orthodox Christians are devoted to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of Bari. The Basilica di San Nicola (Basilica of Saint Nicholas) in the seaside town is an important pilgrimage destination both for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe. The town itself is considered a “window towards the East”.

The meeting was an unprecedented gathering of Orthodox patriarchs and Catholic leaders. The prayers were in Italian, Greek, English, Arabic, Armenian and Assyrian.

The main idea of the initiative was that differences should be solved through dialogue and not violence particularly in the Middle East, the birthplace of all monotheistic religions.