The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I will attend Pope Francis' installation Mass in Rome next Tuesday, a historic gesture since such an event has not occurred since the Catholic-Orthodox split in 1054.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will be accompanied by several other Orthodox leaders.
Among them will be Ioannis Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon and co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church; Tarassios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Argentina; and Gennadios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Italy.
The Ecumenical Patriarch ranks "first among equals" of all the world's Orthodox leaders and leads some 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world. His appearance at the inauguration of Pope Francis as the new Roman Catholic pope symbolizes a sign of progress toward Christian unity.
In his congratulatory message to Pope Francis following his election, Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople struck a tone of unity. He said he would pray that the new pope's "tenure may prove to be a source of peace in our world of turmoil and division" and "a continuation of our journey toward reconciliation and consolidation of the dialogue toward unity as Sister Churches."
Read the full statement by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I on the election of Pope Francis:
In the joy and jubilation of Your election as the pastoral leader of Roman Catholic Christians throughout the world, we are communicating with Your Holiness in order to express to You and the devout faithful of Your blessed Church our wholehearted congratulations and sincerest salutations on this special day.
Permit us also, on this historic occasion, to convey our unfeigned wishes and fervent prayers that your papal tenure may prove to be a source of peace in our world of turmoil and division, a refuge and consolation for our Lord's poor and suffering brothers and sisters, as well as a continuation of our journey toward reconciliation and consolidation of the dialogue toward unity as Sister Churches.
May God grant Your Holiness many years of healthy and fruitful ministry to serve His people with Your distinctive humility, simplicity, and charity.
At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on March 13th, 2013
Your Holiness' beloved brother in Christ
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch