“Closeness to all those suffering from the conflicts that for decades have beset the Holy Land” was expressed by Pope Francis today as he received in audience His Beatitude Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, and his entourage, who are visiting Rome from 22 to 25 October. “Still fresh in my mind is the attentiveness with which you accompanied Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and myself in the Basilica that preserves the places of the Lord’s crucifixion, burial and Resurrection”, Pope Francis began, recalling with emotion “our moment of prayer in the aedicule of the empty Tomb” and expressing again his “pleasure at the restoration of that most holy place”. Indeed, “it has not simply secured the integrity of a historical monument, but also enabled the empty tomb to continue to testify that”. For Pope Francis, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land “have worked together in such harmony on this project, as they also did for the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem”. Then a reference to the international situation: “The uncertainty of the situation and the lack of understanding between the parties continue to create insecurity, the restriction of fundamental rights, and the flight of many people from their land”. Hence the Pope’s appeal: “I invoke God’s help in this, and I ask all those involved to intensify their efforts to achieve a stable peace based on justice and recognition of the rights of all”. “I wish to reaffirm my closeness to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, and my affection for our friends of the other great religions who live there. I hope and pray that the day of a stable and lasting peace for all will soon come”, the Pope said. His Beatitude Theophilos III is accompanied by Archbishop Aristarchos, head of the Secretariat of the Patriarchate, and by Archdeacon Markos. He subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and with Mgr. Paul Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. The Patriarch and his entourage will also meet with Card. Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and with Card. Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.