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Al-Azhar peace conference invites Christian leaders of East, West


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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was scheduled to attend a peace conference in Cairo with Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University.

While Patriarch Bartholomew's office did not release a detailed schedule of events he would be attending during the pope's April 28-29 visit to Cairo, the Vatican confirmed reports April 19 that Patriarch Bartholomew was invited to take part in the conference and was planning to attend.

Pope Francis also was scheduled to meet Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, soon after the conference April 28, making it a day the heirs of the Apostles Peter, Mark and Andrew all would be present in the ancient land of Egypt.

While Pope Francis is the successor of St. Peter, the Orthodox ecumenical patriarchate traces its lineage to St. Andrew and the Coptic Orthodox Church has St. Mark as its patron. The Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches are not in full communion with each other, although they have been working closely together and have been engaged in theology dialogue aimed at unity.

The Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople is called the ecumenical patriarch and is considered "first among equals" for the Eastern Orthodox churches, even though his primacy does not entail direct or ultimate jurisdiction over them.

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