The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople was scheduled to attend a peace conference in Cairo today with Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University.

The Pope was due to meet Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, soon after, making a partial reunion between three leaders who trace their roots to apostolic times.

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 theological 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.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of six Oriental Orthodox churches that trace their roots to apostolic times, but distanced themselves from the Eastern and Western Church after the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Like the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Oriental Orthodox accept seven sacraments and allow the ordination of married men but choose their bishops only from among celibate priests. They are in communion with one another but not with the Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox churches that split with Rome in the 11th century.

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