Pope and Orthodox patriarchs pray for Mideast Christians

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Pope Francis is hosting a daylong prayer for peace in the Middle East with an unprecedented gathering of Orthodox patriarchs and Catholic leaders united in their concern for the plight of Christians in a region tormented by violence and religious-inspired divisions.

Saturday’s ecumenical prayer was being held in the symbolically rich Adriatic port city of Bari, considered a bridge between east and west and home to the relics of St. Nicholas, an important saint in the Orthodox world.

Francis greeted the patriarchs outside the Basilica of St. Nicholas and together they descended to the crypt to pray before the relics and light a flame for peace.

For years, the Vatican has voiced concern about the plight of Christians driven from Mideast communities that date to the time of Christ.

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